Oct 31, 2006

Break out the ballots: November elections decide the House

by Cory Palmer

Next Tuesday, Nov. 7, many crucial congressional positions will be up for grabs. While students who live in the local area can easily make their way to a voting center, most LU students live farther away. Many may assume that they cannot vote since they have to be here in Lynchburg on Election Day. However, there are methods for students to vote no matter where they call home.

“Students who live away from home should contact their local registrar for an absentee ballot,” said Helms School of Government Professor Stephen Witham. “It may even be possible to download an absentee ballot form from the Internet, depending on your area.”

Some states offer online voting, and all states allow absentee votes by mail.

Virginia resident students should be aware that although they are still in the state, they cannot vote in person in Lynchburg. According to the Virginia State Board of Elections Web site, they must either vote in person at the precinct shown on their voter registration card or by mail-in absentee ballot.
In addition, commuter students who live in Lynchburg may have the option to claim their Lynchburg address as their permanent address. However, there are many conditions that must be met when doing this, and the deadline has passed to register for this year’s election.

Bear in mind that according to the Virginia State Board of Elections Web site, students cannot claim their Lynchburg address as permanent if they are claimed as dependents on their parents’ income tax return. In addition, scholarships, insurance coverage and other benefits can be affected if students change their legal addresses.

Also, students who move must remember to keep their addresses updated with the state registrar.
The general election occurs every two years. This year, all 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives and 33 out of the 100 seats in the United States Senate are up for election. In addition, 36 out of 50 state gubernatorial seats and many local city and county offices are up for election.

In the past, many voters have regarded this election as unimportant simply because it does not receive the same press coverage as presidential elections do.

“I don’t see the need to vote in this (election),” said Brian Burkey, a senior at Liberty. “It’s not a presidential election, so it doesn’t seem worth the trouble of getting a mail-in ballot and all that.”
However, this opinion seems to be losing prominence this year.

According to a report by PBS’ “NewsHour,” the number of people ages 18 to 25 who claim to have given a lot of thought to the congressional elections has risen from 27 percent in 2002 to 48 percent in 2006.

Witham wants to emphasize to students that this election is extremely important. He asserts that there are many important reasons for every student to vote in this year’s elections.

“Control of Congress is at stake,” explained Witham. “The party that has a majority gains all committee chairmanships and controls the legislative process. This election may result in a change, giving liberals complete control of congress.”

According to Witham, a shift in party control of congress could drastically alter the nation’s entire political climate.

“If the Democrats gain control of the House of Representatives, the Democrat in line to become chairman of the Judiciary Committee has said that he will introduce Articles of Impeachment against the President,” Witham said.

Contact Cory Palmer at cpalmer2@liberty.edu.

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