Jacob Lawson, News Writer • firstname.lastname@example.org
On Tuesday, November 17, Virginia held elections to determine its next governor. The candidates running for the governor’s office include Democrat Ralph Northam, Republican Ed Gillespie, and Libertarian Cliff Hyra.
Emory & Henry students who voted in the election focused on the candidates’ policies. Junior Rachel Smoot voted for Ralph Northam, saying “I always try to evaluate both candidates, no matter their party affiliation, before I vote. I did a side by side analysis of both Northam and Gillespie, and ultimately chose Northam because my personal political beliefs aligned with his platform more than Gillespie’s.” In connection to Gillespie’s policies, Smoot said, “I am not pleased with President Trump’s actions in office and I wanted a governor who would stand up to and oppose ridiculous and outlandish policies proposed by the president. Gillespie has chosen to support President Trump and I feel as though I cannot back a candidate who does so.”
Senior Ana Rampy focused on specific policies of the candidates that she felt were important, saying, “I’m voting for Ralph Northam for governor because I think his track record with keeping abortion legal is excellent! I’m very pro-choice, and the issue of allowing people to have autonomy of their own bodies is vitally important to me. I also think he could be persuaded to do more for climate change advocacy.”
Sophomore Michael Bosset, who voted for Ed Gillespie, also looked at the candidate’s specific policies. Bosset said, “I think he is the best candidate for Virginia because you look at what his policies are: He wants to support and foster an environment where businesses feel free and safe to come to Virginia and set up headquarters and employ more Virginians. He wants the average Virginian family to keep more of their income with tax cuts and that would increase spending, therefore boosting the economy.”
Some Emory & Henry students were not able to vote in Virginia’s election this year. Some students are ineligible to vote due to being out-of-state students. Other students, like Senior Sara Foster, were not able to vote due to not requesting an absentee vote. Foster said, “it isn’t convenient for me to drive back to my district to vote. Although I know I could have easily googled it, or asked a friend, I don’t know how to request an absentee ballot for this particular election.”
Chair of the Political Science Department Anne Shumaker talked about the importance of voting, even in these off-year elections. Shumaker said, “It’s easier to get excited about the presidential election; it’s more like a sporting event to many. But what happens in Congress and in the statehouse has as much or more impact on our daily lives as the activities of the president. That’s where policy is made. Gubernatorial elections and the upcoming midterm elections are critical, as they will determine whether the ‘Trumpian era’ is the shape of the foreseeable future or just a blip on political radar.”
Shumaker also discussed how polls affect elections, saying, “In general, people should understand three things: the margin of error is important; whether the poll surveys “registered” or “likely” voters matters, and the fact that how and when questions are asked in the poll can have an effect on the answers people give.
Finally, Shumaker said, “Polls may have an negative impact on voting: while Northam supporters may assume he’s going to win and skip voting, Gillespie supporters may assume he’s going to lose and think there’s no point in going to the polls. My advice would be to ignore the polls and go out and vote. In the end, only the votes matter.”