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Virginia Tech students have too much at stake to sit out off-year elections.
Friday, August 23, 2013
Last year, voters waited as late as 9:30 p.m. on Election Day to cast ballots at the Montgomery County voting precinct used by students who live on the Virginia Tech campus. There were 2,254 votes for president cast in the E-3 precinct.
A year earlier, the same precinct recorded only 89 votes in the House of Delegates race won by Republican Joseph Yost and 45 votes in the House race won by Republican Nick Rush.
The paltry 2011 turnout shows that college students, like most of the voting-age population, are far more interested in presidential elections than state legislative contests. But a group called The Student Voter Project, led by current and former Tech students, is working to get Hokies more engaged in this fall’s legislative and statewide elections.
The organization has announced plans to register 3,000 students and encourage them to go to the polls this fall. Organizers said the student vote could be decisive in the House contest between Yost and Democratic challenger James Harder. To their credit, both said they welcome the effort to get more students involved.
Montgomery County has a history of confusion and controversy with student registrations. Montgomery Voter Registrar Randy Wertz said the campus registration drives create “quite a burden” for his office.
But Wertz acknowledges that “this is what happens in a locality with a large university within its borders.” The project’s organizers said they plan to submit registration forms in batches to ease Wertz’s workload. That should help the registration process go smoothly.
Four years have passed since the state board of elections approved voter residency rules that made it easy for college students to register at their campus addresses and vote in their campus communities. It would be a shame if students only exercised this precious right in presidential election years. They have too much at stake to sit on the sidelines and let others decide the direction of their state’s government.
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