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Republican primaries receive high turnout
Liberty University’s precinct had a higher than expected voter turnout March 6, leading the way for Virginia with one of the highest voter percentages in the state.
Liberty’s precinct, which is 302 third Ward second precinct, had a total of 590 votes counted, 13 percent of the registered voters for the precinct, while Virginia’s overall voter turnout was 5.2 percent, according to the Virginia State Board of Elections (VSBE) website.
“Throughout the city, historically, primary elections have a low turnout,” John Cobb, a member of the Lynchburg Electoral Board, said. “Some people have said that the primary elections should be coupled with another voting date, either May or June. I think it is an issue of finances. The Primary is slow because the candidates have an obligation to push voters more, and historically they haven’t.”
However, regardless of the low turnout, Cobb said that the new precinct was a necessary success.
“The law was on the side of Liberty. Once a precinct gets up to 4000 registered voters the registrar has to notify state board,” Cobb said. “They then come together to find a way to deal with it. In this case, a split precinct. With the Liberty population having grown exponentially, their 4,000 voters warranted their own precinct.”
According to Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr., the participation from Liberty students in voting has made an impact in the Lynchburg community.
“The new polling place, pedestrian bridge and the return of Liberty’s zoning rights are all a direct result of Liberty students voting locally in recent elections,” Falwell said.
According to Cobb, with the new polling place open on campus, Heritage High School maintained a manageable number of voters with reduced wait times.
The Liberty University administration is pleased with the turnout of students, according to Liberty’s Director of Auxiliary Services Lee Beaumont.
“To have a 13 percent turnout confirmed that the Liberty precinct was needed and Liberty students will continue to be active in the electoral process at all levels of government,” Beaumont said. “I could not have been happier with the turnout, how well the precinct was run on election day, and the organization and support provided by the Lynchburg Registrar and the Lynchburg Electoral Board.”
According to Falwell, the low turnout had to do with the lack of finances spent by the candidates in Virginia, as well as not having all of the candidates on the ballot.
“Virginia Democrats passed legislation in the past making it extremely difficult for presidential candidates to get their names on the Virginia ballot,” Falwell said. “I believe the governor and the Republican legislature have said they intend to change these laws for future elections.”
Although Mitt Romney won over Ron Paul in the state of Virginia 59.5 percent to 40.4 percent, Paul swept Lynchburg voters 51 percent to 48.9 percent, according to VSBE.
“(Ron Paul) appeals to the younger generation for several reasons: He has a huge online presence, he is anti-establishment and a bit of a rebel and, most importantly, young voters feel like they are part of a cause and something bigger,” Beaumont said. “With Ron Paul it is not about political power, it is about the purity of his beliefs and, to put it simply, he does what he says.”