Student voting increases more than fourfold since 2015

Over 2,100 students registered to vote through various events on-Grounds

op-ivotedsticker-courtesywikimediacommons

Tuesday’s elections drew significantly more student voters than the 2015 General Assembly election. 

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Last Tuesday’s elections drew significantly more student voters than the 2015 General Assembly election, the most recent off-year election before 2019. 

Exactly 1,051 ballots were cast in the Virginia Senate race in the University Precinct, compared to 224 in 2015. This precinct — which is comprised of on-Grounds student housing — saw a 469 percent increase in voter turnout. In the Venable Precinct, which includes off-Grounds student housing, the 2019 election saw 573 ballots, up from 110 in 2015. 

Virginia Senate District 25, which encompasses the University, Venable and Alumni Hall precincts had the seventh highest 2019 General Assembly election voter turnout with 46.5 percent of the voting-eligible population making it to the polls. This figure more than doubled from 2015 — when voter turnout was only 25.6 percent.

Much of this massive student voter increase can be attributed to the efforts of student organizations in dispersing information about candidates and holding voter registration events. Over 2,100 student voters were registered at various events around Grounds.

Student Council, College Republicans, University Democrats, NAACP at U.Va., Black Students Association and Political Latinx United for Movement and Action in Society and many other student organizations from across the political spectrum engaged in efforts to encourage and enable student voting by holding voter registration events. 

“We encouraged students to get out and vote by registering over 1,000 students with the help of Student Council and other organizations,” said Kathryn Williams, third-year College student and communications chair of the University Democrats. “Furthermore, we pushed voting on social media, put up information around grounds and hosted a plethora of speakers that emphasized the importance of this election.”

The College Republicans stressed the importance of students participating in the democratic process. 

“This election cycle we partnered with Student Council and University Democrats in order to register students to vote,” said the College Republican Executive Board. “Participating in our democracy is of vital importance and we saw one of the highest years for student turnout. This is something we can all be proud of.”

Student Council produced a video advising students to have a voting plan, featuring notable U.Va. alumni and current faculty and staff including University President Jim Ryan and Sasheer Zamata, University alumna and former Saturday Night Live cast member. Student Council also held a forum featuring Charlottesville City Council candidates to encourage students to learn more about their positions.  

Democrats and Democrat-endorsed candidates swept the ballot in districts where University students voted. 

“Though we came up short, it is important to note that this was not the result of a lack of enthusiasm,” the College Republicans Executive Board said. “We ran our most efficient political operation ever for an off-year election … As members of the opposition party, we now have the responsibility of doing everything in our power to hold the other side accountable.”

While the College Republicans voiced their commitment to their new role as members of the opposition party, the University Democrats look forward to Virginia’s inauguration as a “blue state.” Williams is optimistic because of the legislative ease of having a state government unified under one party’s leadership.

“Democrats were able to gain control of the Virginia House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate for the first time in 25 years,” Williams said. “This election also had national implications as this majority will be in charge of redistricting, which will affect what goes on in Washington. Moreover, this election proved that Virginia is now a blue state.”

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