Politicians listen to Liberty

How Liberty students became some of the most targeted voters in Virginia

Since its establishment in 2011, the Vines Center voting precinct at Liberty University has garnered a substantial amount of influence in the political sphere unlike any other precinct in Lynchburg City, as Liberty’s overall population continues to grow and more students register to exercise their civic duty to vote.

The Vines Center — better known by many in Lynchburg City’s Registrar’s Office as the second precinct in Lynchburg’s third ward — has shown evidence in the past five years of becoming an established voting bloc that, according to Dean of Students Robert Mullen, has the potential to make or break a candidate’s chance of office.

A CIVIC DUTY — Liberty students have been able to vote at the Vines Center since October 2011. Photo credit: Kevin Manguiob

A CIVIC DUTY — Liberty students have been able to vote at the Vines Center since October 2011. Photo credit: Kevin Manguiob

In the March 2012 presidential primaries — the first time Liberty students were allowed to vote in the Vines Center — the precinct immediately garnered national attention when it recorded 590 votes, more than any other precinct in the state.

In the March 2016 GOP presidential primaries, student voters more than doubled that amount, recording a total of 1,215 votes.

Mullen noted the Vines Center voting precinct allows students an easy way to cast their vote locally, thus giving more collective power to Liberty students’ votes and creating one of the most influential voting blocs in Virginia.

“People and politicians pay attention to voter turnout at the Vines Center precinct,” Mullen said.

“If our students are spread out in different precincts, then the power of the Liberty vote, in terms of public perception, gets a little bit diluted, but when we get a big turnout at the Vines Center, it sends notice that Liberty is influential in both local, state and national politics.”

Out of the 1,215 votes that were cast from the Vines Center in the 2016 GOP presidential primaries, 513 went to Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who later won the majority of votes in Lynchburg City.

According to statistics derived from the Virginia Department of Elections, if all the votes from Liberty’s precinct were to be removed, the outcome would be different — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz would have won Lynchburg City.

In the 2012 presidential general election, the Vines Center recorded 3,347 votes, more than any of the other 18 voting precincts in Lynchburg.

Though the number of active voters was high, only 57 percent of the registered voters at the Vines Center precinct actually voted (5,891 total registered voters), leaving room for improvement in voter turnout for the 2016 general election.

ELECTION DAY — Students pictured holding their “I voted” stickers after voting in the March 2016 primary elections. Photo credit: Kevin Manguiob

ELECTION DAY — Students pictured holding their “I voted” stickers after voting in the March 2016 primary elections. Photo credit: Kevin Manguiob

Similar to the 2012 presidential primary elections, if Liberty’s votes were to be taken out of the 2012 general election, former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney would have only won 50 percent of the votes in Lynchburg instead of 54 percent.

Romney would have gone on to beat President Barack Obama in Lynchburg by a much slimmer margin of 3 percent (50 percent to 47 percent) compared to his actual 10 percent (54 percent to 44 percent) margin of victory.

National politicians have taken notice of Liberty’s influence in Virginia.

In March 2015, Sen. Cruz officially announced his presidential candidacy during Liberty’s Convocation.

Other visitors in the past have included Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson and current Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

According to Mullen, the Dean of Student’s Office this year has partnered with Lynchburg City’s Registrar’s Office on a voter registration campaign to continue to get more students registered in Lynchburg and strengthen voter turnout among those registered.

“We have encouraged students to vote locally because of the convenience but also for the fact that when they register to vote locally, it directly impacts their own pocketbook and the influence Liberty has in the local community,” Mullen said.

Prior to the Vines Center becoming its own voting precinct, Liberty students were forced to drive or take a bus over to Heritage Elementary School to vote.

Heritage Elementary is much smaller compared to the Vines Center, and students would have to wait in hour-long lines with other Lynchburg residents to get a chance to vote.

Consequently, Mullen said it is now much easier for Liberty students to vote locally than voting absentee.

On voting day, food will be provided for all students, whether or not they vote, and representatives from Lynchburg’s Registrar’s Office will be there to help students vote easily and as quickly as possible.

“It’s going to be a fun day,” Mullen said.

“The Registrar’s Office and the precinct captain are excited to have Liberty students come, and it’s just going to be a great atmosphere and a great environment overall.”

YOUNG is the news editor.

One comment

  • My name is Linda and I’m a middle-aged woman born and raised in Ohio by Christian parents with old-fashioned, Bible-based beliefs. I am so thankful for God’s gift of salvation and the promise that he will always be there to watch over me and provide love and guidance.

    That’s why I’m writing to you. A couple days ago I came across one of multiple news articles about Christians who are torn with indecision in this year’s election. I’ve not been much for paying attention to politics, but I agree both the democrat and republican nominees are providing more reasons not to vote for either of them and presenting no confidence they can provide a future for America.

    Gary Johnson is the Libertarian candidate on the ballot in all 50 states this year with William Weld running as Vice President. These two guys are nothing like the other two candidates. Gary and Bill have executive office experience from running 2 terms as governors on the Republican ticket in predominately Democratic states. When their terms were done, they left balanced budgets and lower unemployment rates. Gary was in New Mexico, a border state, which provided the best insight to immigration needs and issues.

    I am coming to you as a fellow Christian, not from the campaign, when I say the Johnson/Weld team is the only chance we have at saving America. Recorded interviews with various newscasters and other information can be found at johnsonweld.com, on Facebook search for Gary Johnson 2016, and also many interviews on YouTube as well.

    I have been praying for God to help provide the means to get the word out to more people, especially those who are undecided and disgusted with Trump and Clinton. When I read the article, I suddenly knew this was my answer.

    I’m not asking for anything more than to let your members know there is a third choice and this is the year they need to vote with their conscience not ‘for the lesser of two evils’. Over the last 3 months I have seen where many polls that are published are also ‘designed’ to show what certain parties want to show. This year we are not throwing away our vote when we vote for Johnson/Weld, we are showing that ‘We, the people,’ are taking a stand. The democrats are gaining too much power and if Hillary Clinton is elected, it will get even worse. The short temperament Donald Trump has makes me fear letting him anywhere near ‘an executive order’ or the authority to say ‘FIRE’!

    I could go on and on, but I don’t want to take up more of your time. PLEASE review the information on these websites, ask God for His guidance, and let your members know they do have a third choice.
    Thank you for your time and I pray that God will richly bless you as you work to teach and preach the Word of God.

    In Christ,

    Linda K. Chatman
    Columbus, OH

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *