As early voting began in Virginia Sept. 23 and Election Day nears Nov. 8, students have started heading to the polls to complete their civic duties. In preparation for the elections, student groups are focusing on efforts to increase voter engagement and turnout.
Carissa Kochan, president of University Democrats and third-year College student, said the group has been registering students and holding educational events. The group hosted speakers from the Democratic Party, including Rep. Abigail Spanberger.
“We have a civic responsibility to ourselves and each other to elect good leaders that represent us in our communities,” Kochan said. “[It is] a really important value of our democracy that we can express ourselves in this way and vote for who we choose.”
UDems has weekly meetings in addition to frequent volunteer opportunities for members, including tabling to register voters twice a week near Newcomb Hall. While nearing Election Day, Kochan said the group is also promoting election details ranging from polling location details to hours of operation.
“I think voting is the most important thing you can do for yourself and the people around you. If you do anything this election season, please vote,” Kochan said.
College Republicans provides opportunities to get to know other Republicans and campaign for those similarly minded, such as congressional candidates and state delegates through efforts such as phone banking. The organization did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The midterm elections in Virginia will include candidates for the House of Representatives, school boards and municipal government. Charlottesville resides in Virginia’s 5th congressional district and will see incumbent Republican Rep. Bob Good face off against Democrat Joshua Throneburg for a seat in the House.
For those voting in the city of Charlottesville, polling locations can be found on the City of Charlottesville’s website, and, for those voting within the county, the Albemarle county website provides detailed information. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Second-year College student Peter Savelyev is among those planning to cast a vote next month. He said he feels individuals often consider voting low priority and they struggle to find their role in the election.
“In democracies, generally, there's one main way that you could actually have a tangible way of saying something in terms of the government — getting your voice out there,” Savelyev said. “You could obviously protest, you [could] obviously talk to representatives, but the only actual, tangible way, I think, is through voting,” Savelyev said.
Across Grounds, events are also occurring to encourage students to vote. University President Jim Ryan and the University’s Center for Politics is hosting a “Run with Jim to the Polls” on Oct. 28 at 8:00 a.m. Free bodos and t-shirts will be available at the event.
Second-year College student Tori Frahm particularly enjoys participating in events like these.
“[Voting is the] main thing that we can do as citizens in our community and let everyone know what we want,” Frahm said. “It's your chance to use your voice.”
Student Council is also offering free rides to and from the polls for early voting and Election Day offered through Charlottesville Yellow Cab Services. For the ride to be free of charge, students should tell their driver to bill Student Council’s business account.
Bianka Warrwick, director of legislative affairs and fourth-year College student, said this resource is important for students without access to a car — this particularly applies to most first-year students, who are not permitted to have cars on Grounds.
“We have big voter registration efforts, but we also want to give them the resources to get to the polls on Election Day if they need to,” Warwick said.
Over the past few years, Student Council offered free rides — this year marks the first time that Student Council is working with the Charlottesville Yellow Cab Services and using a tab for payment rather than reimbursements, however.
In addition to the Center for Politics, the Miller Center for Public Affairs and the Karsh Institute of Democracy are other organizations providing resources, events, webinars and information leading up to the election and beyond.
While early voting has already begun and continues until Nov. 8, the last day for voter registration in Virginia is Oct. 17 and individuals can apply for a mail-in ballot until Oct. 28. To find details on acceptable voting identification, details can be found on the “Voter Identification” document accessible on the Virginia Department of Elections website.