There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say there are things that, we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.
– Donald Rumsfeld, speaking in 2002 about the possibility of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq
We’ve been following the turnout reports all day, trying to divine their meaning. Within about an hour (or more, or less), we should start getting some actual returns.
Perhaps now is a good time to pause and, in the spirit of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, talk about what we know and what we don’t know.
* The one thing we know for certain is there are long lines at many voting places. C0lumnist Dan Casey has photos of some of them in Roanoke here. One possible reason is bottlenecks caused by the new voter ID law; Dan noted just two pollworkers checking IDs at Villa Heights, one of the city’s largest precincts. It seems the long lines may be the story of the day — well, at least until we have some results. By the way, former Rep. Tom Perriello, D-Albemarle County, predicts today’s long lines will lead to calls for more early voting in 2016.
* We also know that, by law, if you’re in line when the polls close at 7 p.m., you still get to vote — so the polls themselves could keep registering ballots for quite awhile yet. That, of course, will delay the reporting of the results.
* What we think we know, but which could be wrong, is that the 3 p.m. turnout figures in Roanoke, Roanoke County and Salem all lagged behind their 2008 pace — a trend that cuts across both Democratic and Republican-leaning communities. However, the more we hear about these long lines, the more we have to wonder that perhaps the turnout report is down simply because people are still in line. So it could be that turnout isn’t down at all. (It’s also important to note that the turnout reports don’t reflect the absentees, although they were fairly volatile this time around — up some places, down in others, but not necessarily with any pattern.)
* We do know that in Roanoke’s strongest Democratic precincts, the vote at 3 p.m. was either close to or sometimes exceeding their 2008 levels. That’s good news for Democrats; but wouldn’t matter if Republican turnout winds up being higher, as well. As of 3 p.m., it was off a bit, but maybe that’s because of the long lines noted above?
* We do know that Covington has been forced to switch to paper ballots. And that means it’s going to take a long time to count all those votes tonight.