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Virginia’s House and Senate are up for grabs, with abortion access at stake

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin holds a pair of squash while touring an H Mart supermarket while meeting with Asian community leaders on April 06, 2023 in Fairfax, Virginia. Youngkin spent the morning visiting with constituents across Northern Virginia.

Win Mcnamee | Getty Images

Virginia’s narrowly divided legislature is up for grabs Tuesday, as voters head to the polls in an election that could decide the future of abortion in the Old Dominion, and test the political winds in the key swing state ahead of the 2024 presidential contest.

Republicans currently have a narrow 51-to-46 majority in the House of Delegates, while Democrats hold a slim 22-to-18 edge in the state Senate. All 140 states seats are on the ballot Tuesday.

The election is a tossup, with the lilkely voter pool evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, according to two recent polls.

Inflation and the economy are the top issues on voters’ minds, two areas where polls show Republicans have an advantage. But Tuesday’s election also hinges on voter turnout, and here, Democrats have the edge.

If Republican majorities take over both chambers, they will almost certainly enact a controversial 15-week abortion ban proposed by Virginia’s Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin. This prospect has made abortion a major issue in the races.

It has also drawn national money into the contests, wehere Democratic candidates have raised more overall than the Republicans, according to an analysis by the Virginia Public Access Project.

In the Senate, Democrats have pulled in $12.7 million in contributions, compared to the $10.6 million Republicans have raise. In the House, Democrats booked $14.2 million, compared to the Republicans $8.4 million.

Tuesday’s legislative races are the first statewide elections in Virginia since Republicans broke unified Democratic control of the Old Dominion in 2021. That year, Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe to become governor, and the GOP swept into the majority in the House of Delegates.

The Republican victory suggested Virginia voters were shifting to the right, just a year after Joe Biden trounced Donald Trump in the state in the 2020. Youngkin remains popular in Virginia, with a 54% approval rating, while Biden is a burden for Democrats in the state, with an approval rating hovering just above 40%.

The U.S. Supreme Court decision to abolish national abortion rights by overturning Roe v. Wade in June 2022 has put Republicans on the defensive in statewide races across the country.

Like others his party, Youngkin wants to restrict abortion in Virginia. But he has sought a middle ground compared to Republicans who want to ban the procedure outright. Under Youngkin’s proposal, abortion would be banned aftter the 15th week of pregnancy, with exceptions for rape, incest and when the mother’s life is in jeopardy.

Democrats in the legislature have made preserving abortion rights in Virginia central to their campaigns. Currently, the procedure is legal through the 26th week of pregnancy in the Old Dominion, the only state in the South that has not imposed restrictions after Roe was overturned.

Virginians overwhelmingly support abortion access, with more than 70% of voters in favor of maintaining the state’s current laws, or making the procedure easier to access, according to two recent polls.

Still, it is unclear how many voters oppose Youngkin’s proposed 15-week ban. One recent survey found that that 54% of voters opposed such a ban, while another poll suggested Virginians were evenly split on the issue.

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