VIRGINIA

McDonnell confident voting will be unaffected in Va.

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Nine of Virginia's 134 voter registrar's offices remained closed to early absentee voters Tuesday in the aftermath of the Atlantic superstorm that brought high winds to eastern Virginia and a freakish fall blizzard to the state's western mountains.

Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell said he is confident absentee voting in Virginia will be fully restored by Wednesday. Virginia hasn't adopted early voting.

"We have done our preliminary assessment of our registrar's offices and also our voting precinct locations, because I don't want anything to interrupt full participation in democracy as we go into this presidential election," McDonnell said.

McDonnell has instructed general registrars to remain open for a total of eight additional hours through Saturday, the final day to cast absentee ballots in Virginia.

Early voting - absentee voting in Virginia - was a potent weapon for President Barack Obama's get-out-the-vote strategy in 2008, when he became the first Democrat to carry Virginia in a presidential race since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. Four years ago, Obama won nearly two-thirds of the 511,247 Virginia absentee ballots cast in his victory over Sen. John McCain.

Polling shows a toss-up race in Virginia between Obama and Romney, and an even closer race between two former governors, Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican George Allen, for a Senate seat that figures into whether the Democrats retain their tenuous Senate majority.

This year, both Democrats and Republicans have put a major emphasis on voting early in Virginia by absentee ballot.

Registrars closed without power Monday and Tuesday represent a mix of partisan loyalties, but the proportion of the vote affected is overwhelmingly pro-Democratic.

Most were in the northern Virginia counties of Arlington, Loudoun, Fauquier and Fairfax, as well as the city of Falls Church. All, except for Fauquier, voted overwhelmingly for President Barack Obama in 2008. Fairfax County, with 1.1 million residents, is home to one of every eight Virginians.

Accomack County on the Eastern Shore was still out, as were Wise and Tazewell counties and the city of Norton in southwestern Virginia. All are among Virginia's smallest localities, and Obama lost in all of them, though by only one vote in Norton, 744 to 743.

McDonnell and Don Palmer, McDonnell's appointee to direct the State Board of Elections, both voiced confidence that registrars' offices would all reopen as early as Wednesday.

By no later than Wednesday morning, McDonnell said, each local registrar will post the storm-extended business hours known on their individual Web sites.

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