More than 34 percent of college students showed up to the polls Nov. 7 and voted overwhelmingly Democrat, according to Virginia Public Access Project. This comes as a stark increase to the roughly 26 percent of college voters in 2013.
Roughly 72 percent of registered college students voted for Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, the democratic candidate for governor, compared to the 26 percent who voted for Republican Ed Gillespie.
For the first time, the Student Commons was a voting location where students living in campus dorms could cast their ballots.
“VCU had people outside offering to help us register to vote for here and they obviously had it close to our living quarters which made it really easy,” said freshman Patrick Williams.
Forty-seven percent of Virginians voted in this year’s statewide elections. Democrats broke barriers after they flipped traditionally red districts blue and elected a more diverse set of state legislators.
Northam defeated Gillespie with 53.9 percent of the vote versus Gillespie’s 45 percent. Virginia also elected its first transgender woman, first openly lesbian woman and flipped traditionally Republican districts Democrat.
Danica Roem (D-13) took home a historic win Tuesday night when she defeated long-time 13th district delegate Bob Marshall who is known for his anti-LGBTQ comments. Marshall fell under national scrutiny when he tried to pass a bill that would discriminate against transgender people from using the bathroom of their choice in public spaces.
In a press call, Roem said she was grateful for the awareness that this year’s election to her district, but wants to focus on the issues that won her the seat in the first place.
“Be who you are and be well,” Roem said. “It’s okay to champion who you are and while you are doing it make sure you’re relating to issues that affect the people in your district – the core quality life issues in your area.”
The number of women elected to state legislature also came as a surprise to many of their incumbents in historically republican districts. As of now, 11 women have won seats in the House compared to the 17 from previous years.
Dawn Adams (D-68) also made Virginia history when she became the first openly lesbian delegate in the Virginia state legislature. She flipped the 68th district in Virginia from red to blue when she beat Manoli Loupassi (R) by less than 400 votes.
Virginia also elected its first two Latina women and one Asian-American woman to office.
Elizabeth Guzman (D-31) and Hala Ayala (D-51) beat their white-male counterparts in each of their prospective districts. CASA in Action, a non-partisan group that works to garner the Latino and immigrant vote in Virginia and Maryland, said this election was a direct refusal to accept anti-immigrant rhetoric prevalent in this year’s campaigns.
Gustavo Torres, President of CASA in Action, credited their endorsed candidates which included Ayala, Guzman and Northam for diverse and inclusive campaigns.
“This victory demonstrates how critical it is to engage with voters from their perspective and early in the process,” Gustavo stated in a press release. “If we want greater voter participation, we must connect with people meaningfully and positively.”
Kathy Tran (D-42) became the first Vietnamese-American woman to secure a seat in the House after she beat Lolita Mancheno-Smoak (R) in her Northern Virginia district.
The newly elected state officials will take office in January 2018.
MaryLee Clark contributed to this report.
Hiba is a senior studying broadcast journalism and religious studies. She is a previous Voice of America intern where she worked with the immigration and TV news teams. She previously interned with the Muslim Public Affairs Council and VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture.
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