Virginia is for voters
- With upcoming Virginia elections in November, Liberty is encouraging students to vote.
- Students hoping to impact local issues like food taxes can register to vote by Oct. 16
The end is near for a multitude of political terms, both local and statewide, and Liberty University students have an opportunity to determine the future of Virginia.
With general election and absentee voting deadlines of Oct. 16 and Oct. 31 approaching, Liberty is encouraging its students to register to vote in Virginia.
The Vines Center voting precinct — the third ward second district — has proven to be one of the most influential in the district. According to the Virginia Department of Elections, in the 2013 gubernatorial race, Liberty’s precinct counted for six percent of the voting district, and in the 2016 presidential race, it counted for nearly nine percent.
Morgan Hanson, Liberty’s assistant director of online student life, said the closer the election gets and the more relevant issues are brought up, the more involved Liberty students will get.
“It would be hard to match the level of interest and excitement generated by the 2016 Presidential election,” Hanson said. “While that election was certainly impactful, the issues that will be influenced by the 2017 gubernatorial and local elections all have very direct bearing on our students’ daily lives and pocketbooks.”
Further statistics from the Virginia Department of Elections show some of the most recent elections have been extremely close. In the 2013 gubernatorial elections, Democrat Terry McAuliffe pulled ahead of Republican Kenneth Cuccinelli by less than 57,000 votes. The 2013 Attorney General election between Democrat Mark Herring and Republican Mark Obenshain was even closer as it was determined by a margin of only 165 votes, with Herring winning. That is less than the occupancy of a dorm building on the Hill.
Hanson said local elections have especially benefited Liberty students in the past and are responsible for some of the amenities they enjoy today.
“Past local elections have had a significant influence on issues like the local food tax, Liberty’s zoning classification and the building of the Ward’s Road pedestrian bridge,” Hanson said. “Also, recent statewide elections have been very close. It is not a stretch to say that the Liberty turnout could help determine statewide outcomes this November.”
Karen Patterson of the Lynchburg Registrar’s Office said some students hesitate to vote because of confusion over registration.
“The uncertainty of voting or registration status in (the students) home state sometimes causes apprehension,” Patterson said. “The majority of students register where they are attending college, but oftentimes forget to cancel voter registration in their home state. Students who have registered locally also get confused when it comes to absentee voting and how that works.”
Patterson said out of 4,718 student voters, Liberty currently has 3,967 active voters and 751 inactive (voters who have not cast a ballot in two federal elections and have not recently verified their voting address.)
According to Hanson, Liberty is making efforts to get students to register for the elections. Currently, students can register in the Dean of Students Office (Green Hall 1880), the Graduate and Commuter Life Center (Green Hall 1875) and the Student Government Association Offices (Montview 3560).
“Voter Registration efforts began at this year’s (LU) Student Activity’s Block Party and continue through voting drives in the Jerry Falwell Library and Montview (Student Union) throughout September and up to Oct. 16th, the deadline to register to vote,” Hanson said. “Throughout the Constitution Week, presented by the Center for Law and Government, from Sept. 18 to 22 the Voter Registration Tables will be set up at Convocation and on the Montview Lawn.”
Political clubs on campus are encouraging students to vote as well.
“People need to understand that if they’re having real issues in their life, you have to get involved and make a difference,” President of College Republicans John Wood said.
The Vice President of College Libertarians at Liberty Aaron Sobczak said voting is the voice of the students.
“As individuals in the big government system we have now, we don’t have a whole lot of voice,” Sobczak said. “We don’t have a whole lot of ways to express your voice. Student activism is a great one and voting is a great one.”
For more information on registering, go to the Virginia Department of Elections website.