UPDATE: City councilman, mayor respond to LU voter turnout
UPDATE: Falwell told the local newspaper, The News & Advance, that he was "surprised" when the election went to Garrett. The newspaper also cited Lynchburg Mayor Joan Foster and City Councilman Michael Gillette saying LU would now be recognized as a force in local government. To read the full article, click here.
Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. had his first chance since Election Day to address the student body on Friday. At convocation, he thanked students for voting and making an impact in local elections — for the first time.
“Tuesday, Nov. 3 marked the beginning of a new era for Liberty University,” he said. “Since its founding in 1971, Liberty’s dorm students have not been permitted to vote in local elections while dorm students in other universities across the United States and across the state of Virginia have been allowed to vote.”
Falwell said many people go through life without ever seeing a direct impact of their votes, and Liberty students had that opportunity Tuesday.
With about 3,200 students eligible to vote locally, Liberty cancelled classes and arranged for buses to take students to the polls throughout the day. Most students voted at the Heritage precinct, where republican Scott Garrett unseated the democratic incumbent Shannon Valentine by about 200 votes in the House of Delegates 23rd District race. Valentine was winning by 1,400 votes until the votes from Heritage came in — where more than 2,000 Liberty students voted, Falwell said — and the results quickly turned around.
“I was elated not because of who won and who lost, but because Liberty students were the deciding factor in their first local election,” Falwell said.
As an article on Christian Newswire reported, “the stunning victory is attributed solely to the voting block of the students, faculty and staff at Liberty University.”
Falwell told the local newspaper, The News & Advance, that he was "surprised" when the election went to Garrett. The newspaper also cited Lynchburg Mayor Joan Foster and City Councilman Michael Gillette saying LU would now be recognized as a force in local government.
At Friday’s convocation, Falwell expressed the significance of the event.
“As I greeted our students at the polls on Tuesday I knew I was witnessing history in the making,” he said. “My father dreamed of the day when Liberty students would be treated as first-class citizens in this community and now that day has finally arrived.”
Earlier in the semester Falwell began encouraging students to register to vote locally because issues before local government could have an impact on tuition and the taxes students pay while residents here, as well as the university’s plans for future growth.
In a letter to students, faculty and staff the eve of Election Day, he said a large voter turnout from Liberty “will send a message to the city that it is not OK to impose exorbitant taxes on LU students or impose expensive requirements on LU when the school grows.”
On Friday, he said Liberty’s voter turnout did just that.
“Tuesday was monumental for Liberty because never again will Liberty students and their families get targeted for staggering meals, lodging and sales taxes without fair representation in local government.”
Liberty University made national headlines last year when the school recruited about 4,000 students to register in the state of Virginia. The school set a goal of 1,500 new registrants this academic year, but surpassed that at 1,729.