U.Va. students weigh in on voting locally versus absentee

Students differ in opinion as to where peers should vote

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Voting in college can be daunting for students who are pressed with meeting absentee voter registration and ballot submission deadlines. Tyra Krehbiel | Cavalier Daily

Voting in college can be daunting for students who are pressed with meeting absentee voter registration and ballot submission deadlines. Most are not as fortunate as first-year College student Johnny Riordan, who is a resident of Charlottesville. 

“Being from Charlottesville, I didn’t really have to focus as much on the registering to vote in Charlottesville or absentee information that they were spewing,” Riordan said. “I will go to my voting location.”

Although Riordan didn’t have to deal with the trouble of voting absentee, he said he is grateful for all the University has done to facilitate the voting process for its students. He said he has noticed the tables set up around first-year dorms encouraging and offering incentives for students to vote, as well as the people that have come into his classes informing students of important voting deadlines. Riordan said he doesn’t have a strong opinion on whether students should vote in their home district or in Charlottesville’s, he said he just feels that people should simply vote.

“I think it’s most important that students are voting, whether it’s in Charlottesville or absentee, that’s their personal decision,” Riordan said. “I think it’s just making sure you register to vote and figure it out before the deadline hits, which I know a lot of students miss ... Also, going out on the day of voting or filling out your absentee ballot and sending it — that’s the most important part.”

Joseph Dennie, University Democrats communication coordinator and third-year College student, said in an email to The Cavalier Daily the organization feels that voting absentee or in Charlottesville is entirely up to the individual.

“Our main priority as an organization is ensuring that students use their voice to take part in the electoral process,” Dennie said. “We advise students to take advantage of the option that makes this most convenient for them — whether that means registering to vote here in Charlottesville or voting absentee at their home address, it depends on their individual situation.”

The on-Grounds voting location moved to Slaughter Recreation Center — the building right across from Observatory Hill — from University Hall, where students previously voted. This new location is closer to first-year residence halls.

On the other hand, the College Republicans encouraged students to register to vote in Charlottesville instead of voting absentee. 

“We think it’s important to have a stake in local issues since obviously students at U.Va. are in Charlottesville and in the Fifth District for most of the year,” said Robert Andrews, fourth-year College student and College Republicans chairman. “So that’s typically how we do that, but we understand why people would want to vote in their home districts and vote absentee so we make sure to help them in that process if that’s what they want to do. But yes, we strongly, very much encourage people to vote here.”

Likewise, AJ Donovan, a second-year College student, feels that students should register to vote in Charlottesville because it is where they currently reside and probably will reside in the foreseeable future. 

Emily Kellam, a second-year College student, said she believes the decision to vote absentee depends on the political leanings of a person’s hometown and his or her political ideology. 

“I think if someone is strongly more liberal and they’re from a more conservative area than Charlottesville, then they should vote absentee because Charlottesville is already … likely to go Democrat so I think that their vote has a better chance of swaying in a more conservative area,” Kellam said. 

Kellam planned to vote absentee in the election on Tuesday, just like she did last year for the gubernatorial election. 

Andrews said University students’ impact on the Fifth District election depended on how close the race was. He noted that if only a couple hundred students vote then they may not have a consequential effect, however if a couple thousand vote then they could make a difference, especially if there’s a small margin of error.

“U.Va. students will have a major role in determining the outcome of the election in this district,” Dennie said prior to the election. “With the election having the potential to be so close, every vote will be incredibly important.”

A New York Times poll of 501 people projected the race in the Fifth District to be close, which meant that University students could have played a pivotal role in determining the outcome of the election. 

However, the final split was not actually this close. Republican candidate Denver Riggleman won 54 percent of the vote. Democrat Leslie Cockburn secured only 46 percent.

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