The Virginia Elections and State Elected Officials Database Project, 1776-2008

Charles A. Kromkowski
Department of Politics, University of Virginia

Project Co-Sponsors
Center for Politics, University of Virginia Library

The Virginia Elections and State Elected Officials Database Project provides a current and accessible compilation and statistical resource on Virginia state elections and state elected officials from 1776 to the present.

Virginia has a special place in the history and ongoing development of an electoral and representative form of government in the United States. In 1619, the colony of Virginia elected and convened its first legislative assembly, a practice that was repeated throughout the colonial era. In 1776, Virginia upheld this democratic tradition, electing delegates to the 1776 state constitutional convention, which made regular elections of the Virginia General Assembly a constitutional requirement in the 1776 state constitution. Since then, Virginia has extended the practice of elections to several additional state offices: to Members of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1789; to Governors, Lieutenant Governors, and State Attorneys General in 1851; to U.S. Senators in 1916; and to members of all but one of the state’s constitutional conventions since 1776. The Virginia Supreme Court also was elected by popular vote from 1852 until the 1870 state constitution returned this power to the Virginia General Assembly. To be certain, throughout much of this electoral history the right to vote in state elections fell woefully short of the democratic ideal of a full recognition of Virginia’s population. Significant advancements in the legal guarantee of voting rights, however, were made in 1920 by the Nineteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which granted women’s suffrage; in 1964 by the Twenty-Fourth Amendment, which prohibited poll taxes; and by the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which barred various forms of registration and voter discrimination. Despite its shortcomings with regard to full voting rights, Virginia remained committed to the practice of regular and public elections, making it the oldest continuous electoral democracy in the United States and the world today.

For the general reader, students and teachers, and more specialized users, the Database Project offers two basic types of information. First, the Project offers a searchable, integrated, and expandable record of state election results, which include individual district and election attributes, candidate names and state electoral histories, vote tallies, and campaign expenditures. This site also offers various summary statistics related to these elections, including historical measures of reelection rates and of electoral competition. The Project presently includes the results of Virginia General Assembly elections since 1949, Virginia Gubernatorial election results since 1851, Virginia's U.S. Senate elections since 1916, and U.S. House election results since 1789. Periodically, the Project will update and extend the range of these election results. In the future, for example, General Assembly elections results will extend back to 1870, and other state election results and display formats will be added as records and resources become available.

The second type of information provided by this Project consists of the biographical and state political service records of, at present, almost 10,000 individuals who have served as or been a candidate for the office of Governor, State Delegate, State Senator, U.S. Representative, or U.S. Senator. These individuals and their respective state offices have participated in, contributed to, and are responsible for important and enduring parts of Virginia’s political history. A public record of the State’s elected officials and of their electoral opponents, therefore, offers an appropriately public starting point for recognizing their personal and institutional contributions to the State and American history. Academic researchers, state and local historians and archivists, teachers, students and other inquisitive users will find the summary statistics related to these records an especially useful resource for identifying and analyzing historical and geographical variations in Virginia politics across a range of indicators, including: legislative turnover rates; legislative and gubernatorial tenure rates; legislative leadership positions; electoral jurisdictions and district types; as well as the gender, ethnicity, age, and party affiliations of Virginia’s state elected officials. Most important, the Project’s database design makes possible future extensions of the content, audiences and contributors to the Database. In addition to the required updating necessitated by each new state election, the Database design permits the future inclusion of other state elected officials-- for example, Lieutenant Governors, State judges, and State Attorneys General as well as the addition of other types of campaign, election, and electoral district information.