Virginia Elections, 2017

Virginia has an important election coming up on November 7th, 2017 (yep, it turns out presidential elections aren't the only things to vote on in this country). We'll be getting a new governor and voting for every seat in our House of Delegates! Not sure who's running for governor? (Or, to be honest, exactly what the House of Delegates is and does?) Read on for a simple breakdown and links to more information.


The race for governor is between current Lieutenant Governor, Ralph Northam (Democrat), former Republican National Committee chair, Ed Gillespie (Republican), and patent attorney, Cliff Hyra (Libertarian). Virginia's governorship, currently democratic, tends to alternate between the parties. So far, this race appears likely to be a close one between the Republican and Democratic candidates. Learn more about the candidates and the race at Ballotpedia.

House of Delegates

     Just as our country has the House and the Senate, Virginia has a House and a Senate that, together, make decisions about state-wide legislature. The Republican Party currently holds the majority in both the House of Delegates and the Senate. In the House of Delegates, this majority is particularly sizable (66 out of 100 seats), which is a big deal because of the way checks and balances work.

     When the legislative branch (the House and Senate) puts forward a bill, the Governor has the option to veto it. BUT, if 2/3 of the House of Delegates disagrees with a veto decision, they can override it. That means if the Republican Party can bump their seats up by just one, to 67, they can put laws into effect without requiring a single vote of bipartisan support at either the legislative or executive level.

     It's almost certain that at least one seat will flip parties this election, so the question is just which ones and in which direction!

     77 seats of the House (out of 100) are currently up for contest in the Nov 7th election (the other 23 have only one candidate running). Your vote counts a LOT in these races because delegates are selected only by the subset of Virginians who are residents of that delegate's district. Some numbers to prove the point: last election, most individual delegate races involved less than 15,000 votes TOTAL. This means the difference between winning and losing was often so small we don't even need "the capacity of a football stadium" analogies to make sense of them. The closest race was won by a margin of only 125 votes, and all of the top ten closest races were won by a margin of less than 3000. Point being, your vote counts!

     If we've convinced you, then find out what district you are in by entering your address here. Then, find out which candidates are running for delegate in your district here. Once you know who you want to vote for, block off November 7th on your calendar and make your voice heard!

why should you vote in this election?

Elections that don't involve the presidency generate lower turnout*....which makes them exactly the right time to vote if you want to have your voice heard! In VA's last gubernatorial election, if just 30,000 of Governor McAuliffe's voters had chosen to vote for Cuccinelli instead, we would have had a different governor for the last four years*. State-level representation, from governor to senator, has a huge impact on policies both local and national. Voting is your chance to ensure that representation represents YOU.

* Curious about the data behind these claims? Delve into voter turnout data here and relive the details of the 2013 gubernatorial campaign here.

Aren't scientists supposed to stay out of politics?

Scientists don't tend to publicly affiliate with political parties. We don't want to suggest a group could be always right without continually assessing their stances based on the current best data. (After all, we still call Einstein's profound insights about the universe "theories," and that guy had a Nobel Prize!).

But, what we can definitely get behind is politicians who themselves are committed to data-driven policy. We, therefore, seek to support candidates whose platforms embrace data-driven policy. Even more that that, we aim to make information about these candidates readily available so YOU can make an informed decision about who you want your representatives to be.