Ishaan Nandwani, Contributing Writer
It’s officially the middle of October — that means warm-ish weather, spooky season and of course, the gubernatorial election in Virginia.
Every year, we gather to pay homage to one of the cornerstones of our democracy: the right to vote. This year, millions of Americans will head to the polls to cast their ballots for state offices, exercising this sacred right.
Last year, we witnessed the largest voter turnout in U.S. history, with 155 million Americans casting their ballots during the presidential election; a brilliant display of people participating in our government. There’s no doubt that the stakes were incredibly high, with our country enduring an unprecedented division and a massive push from both sides of the political spectrum to get every voter to the polls.
On campus, I felt a strong sense of urgency to vote. Tables from voting organizations on campus were set up to help register students around Cabell Library and Monroe Park. Conversations surrounding the election and voting flooded the lines at Shafer Dining Court and the Cabell Library Starbucks. Countless students took to social media to post selfies with their infamous “I Voted” stickers.
But this year, I’ve seen none of that.
The tabling and registering of students, critical conversations surrounding the election and social media push toward voting is almost nonexistent.
While it’s understandable that nonpresidential elections do not receive the same media attention as local elections given the scope of their impact, we cannot understate the importance of voting in local elections when there is so much on the line.
On the ballot in Virginia this year, we’re electing a new governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. In Richmond City, we’re electing a new representative to the Virginia House of Delegates.
The issues and platforms run by each of these candidates directly affect us. In the gubernatorial race, Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin is a Trump loyalist, strong opponent of abortion and has fought against gun control legislation.
The Democratic nominee is former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, and Princess Blanding, sister of Marcus-David Peters, is running as an Independent representing the Liberation party. McAuliffe is advocating for issues including health care for all and investing more money into education. Blanding is advocating for a progressive platform that calls for greater criminal justice reform and racial justice.
These issues have significant implications for people across Virginia, and we can’t afford to turn a blind eye to what’s at stake.
Sophomore international studies student Ailita Whalen stated that she plans to vote by mail in this upcoming election because it is most convenient for her as a college student, and urges her peers to get out and vote.
“I think it is more important to vote in local elections than presidential elections. The major changes that impact us happen from our local representatives and legislation,” Whalen stated in an email.
Issues that federal politicians discuss — housing, health care, minimum wage — are actively implemented by local representatives, effecting the change that we see in our communities. Therefore, the importance of participating in local elections with regards to the direct changes we see in our lives cannot be understated.
Whalen added, “If more people voted in local elections, I think we would have much more satisfying legislation and leadership.”
Early voting is currently open in Virginia, and in-person early voting closes on Oct. 30.
If you’re a VCU student on the fence about voting in this upcoming election, or voting isn’t something that’s been on your mind because of the lack of attention the election has received, let this article be your sign to go out to the polls and vote.
Whether your plan is to vote by mail or in person, we all deserve to be heard on Election Day, Nov. 2. Let your voice ring loud and clear — vote.