The importance of voting

Justin Norris | Staff Writer

The importance of exercising your right to vote cannot be understated. Voting is a privilege that should not be taken lightly; it is the key to effecting change.

Midterm elections are Nov. 6, and all 435 seats in the House of Representatives are at stake, as well as 35 out of the 100 Senate seats. Voters will determine if the Republican Party will continue to control Congress or if the Democratic Party will regain the upper hand in the Capitol. Given the situation, Virginians are not taking the responsibility of voting lightly.

According to Christopher Piper, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Elections, the state is “seeing an increase in registrations. We actually started seeing this back in early summer. Even absentee voting is up near presidential levels in the past, so we’re looking at increased interest in this election, for sure.”

In Virginia, incumbent Senate candidate Tim Kaine (D) is up for reelection against Republican nominee Corey Stewart. The two candidates were at the Town Hall in the Hampton Convocation Center on Oct. 3 discussing foreign policy, national defense and the military. Kaine and Stewart also shared their views on the Brett Kavanaugh controversy, as well as the state of veterans’ health care. A select number of students were able to sit on stage with the candidates and raise questions the students felt passionately about.

In the House of Representatives, Republicans hold seven of 11 seats heading into midterm elections. According to Ballotpedia, Virginia contains four congressional districts that intersect with pivot counties. Pivot counties are counties that voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election after voting for Barack Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections. The answer to whether Virginia will be a red or blue state in 2018 might very well be found in these counties.

At Hampton University, students have been urged to register to vote. Since there are no polling stations on campus, students will have to find transportation to the polls, whether it be public or private. However, some classes will be canceled so students can get to the polls and vote, so there is no excuse for refusing to vote. Even the price of an Uber or Lyft is a small price to pay for exercising a right that was not afforded to people of color two generations ago.

“As a political science major, I have become knowledgeable on why it is so important that we as students make it our top priority to vote in the midterm election on Nov. 6,” said Chase Putney, a senior political science major from Newport News. “This election determines what political party holds the majority in Congress, the legislative body in our government. If you do not agree with the legislation our president is trying to pass, it is essential that you vote. Hampton students should be making every attempt to have their voices heard in a red state because several pieces of legislation being passed are targeted against government-funded programs that benefit minorities, such as TANF [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families], education programs and laws regarding public health and safety.”

For people of color, additional significance can be found in exercising the right to vote in this country. For generations, people of color did not have the right to vote in the United States and were kept from the polls through a combination of violence, fear and intimidation, grandfather clauses, poll taxes and literacy tests. Although people of color were supposed to be granted the right to vote after the 15th amendment, it was not until President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that people of color could officially vote. Voting, at the very least, should be a gracious acknowledgement of the progress made by the Civil Rights Movement.

The midterm election will have implications beyond which political party controls the Senate for the next four years. These results might also indicate how voters will act in the 2020 presidential election.

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