Happy Birthday!

June 25 is a birthday for many: George Orwell, an accomplished author; Ricky Gervais, a successful comedian; and, Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic women on the United States Supreme Court. However, the oldest and arguably the most important birthday on this date is that of Virginia. On this day in 1788, Virginia was the 10th state to join the United States of America.

June 25, 2016 is the 228th birthday of the state of Virginia. All those years ago James Madison was the catalyst in facilitating Virginia’s transition from one of the 13 colonies into a state. Including James Madison, Virginia served as the birthplace of  more presidents than any other state: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor and Woodrow Wilson.

Virginia started with the English settlers establishing in Jamestown, the former capital, on the bank of the James River in 1607. Richmond, also founded in 1607, is now the capital of Virginia.

Many changes in Virginia have occurred in the last 228 years. Some counties in the original Virginia have been given to Kentucky and West Virginia. Even with the loss of those counties, Virginia is still the home to about eight million people, and encompasses 42,775 square miles.

Virginia is often called the Old Dominion, Mother of Presidents, Mother of states, Mother of Statesmen and the Cavalier State. Among many things, Virginia is a vital part of American history and establishment of the United States. Happy Birthday, Virginia!

Sanders Asks Us to Open Up to Open Primaries

Senator Bernie Sanders wants all states to adopt open party primaries. He feels that many young people that identify as independents are being deprived of their right to vote in the primaries. In 15 out of our 50 states, open primaries are being held. These states are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin. In many states, including Virginia, there is no option listed to affiliate with a political party when registering to vote; therefore, these states have nonpartisan registrations.

Partisan primaries began about 100 years ago to help Americans choose party nominees and restrict the power of the parties. However, 40 percent of voters today do not wish to choose to affiliate with either major party. This shift in preference has led many states to adopt other forms of primary elections.

There are four types of primaries in the United States. The first type is a closed primary, which is a partisan vote that restricts voters to voting within their chosen party affiliation. The next is Sanders’ favorite, open primaries; these are open to all voters, but voters are required to choose one party’s ballot to vote on.

Another primary option is a combination of both a closed and open primary. The mixed primary allows political parties to decide how the primary process will be executed. Parties may require voters to declare a party for voting day.

The last type of party is a top two, nonpartisan primary. This last type allows all voters to vote on their favorite top two candidates. The top two candidates move onto the general election, if they succeed in winning their parties’ nominations.

Some who are in opposition to open primaries argue that closed primaries do not restrict anyone from voting. They believe that anyone who wants to vote in a particular party should just register in that party and switch later if they change their mind. Another argument is that voters may try to sabotage the party they are not affiliated with if given the choice between ballots.

Supporters of open primaries are arguing that this type of primary is the most impartial way for voters to have a voice. According to openprimaries.org, “86 percent of Americans believe the government is broken under the closed primary system.” They also state that “75% of elected officials in this country are winning office without having to communicate with voters outside their own party.”

If an open party system would be adopted in the last 35 states, then politicians would be required to work much harder to stay in office. They would need to target all individuals instead of just voters within their party.

Voting in Virginia: Your Vote Counts!

The 2016 presidential election is coming upon us, and Virginia is scheduled to vote in the general election on November 8. Every non-convicted (and recently some convicted) citizen over the age of 18 has the right to vote, but a lot of people choose not to exercise this right.

Virginia has around 6.5 million eligible voters and of those there are 5,354,785 that are registered to vote. Among those registered to vote are 116,445 inactive voters, meaning they haven’t voted in a federal election in two years and have failed to acknowledge postcards mailed to their homes. This means about 80 percent of eligible voters in Virginia are actively registered to vote in November.

If this seems like a lot, then take into consideration that many of those people will not vote. The percentage of the 245,273,438 Americans eligible who actually vote is 57.5, and the state with the highest voter turn-out rate is Minnesota with 75 percent of eligible voters. Voters give a variety of reasons for not voting, but the top four are 17.5 percent too busy; 14.9 percent too ill; 13.4 percent not interested in voting; and 12.9 percent who lack support for any particular candidates. The most active voting age group voting is 65-74, whereas lowest voting age group is 18-24.

Virginia has 13 Electoral College votes, compared to states as large as California (55 Electoral College votes). Virginia has 2.5 percent of the total Electoral College votes, but can make up to 5 percent of the votes needed to win,due to the election being decided by two Electoral College votes (two more votes than the opponent to reach 270), Virginia’s votes count and your participation counts. All of Virginia’s votes go to one party, therefore one Electoral College shift in support could change all 13 votes.

Virginia’s additional votes are more valuable than ever because the state is shifting from a more Republican state to a slightly more Democrat state. From 1996 to 2004, Virginia had a majority of Republican voters. There were roughly the same amount of republicans in 1996 as today, but the undecided people have adopted Democrat views or voting preferences.

If the race is as close as it could be, then eligible voters who, normally don’t vote, could make the difference. If you aren’t registered to vote, you must register before June 14 to be eligible to vote in the general election. The process is not difficult and can be completed online.

Don’t remain unheard!

Upcoming General Election

Virginia is an increasingly important state in the upcoming general election. From 1964 until Obama’s first win in 2008, Virginia had been primarily Republican. Virginia’s population started to become more diverse and now less conservative at the turn of the millennium. These diverse, more moderate populations are mostly voting Democrat.

Along with the diversity shift, are new policies that deal with how or who can vote. One policy change, recently trending in the media, is the new requirement of the photo-ID at the voting polls. The Registrar’s office, to keep up with the new law, is following up with retirement and healthcare facilities to make sure voters have photo IDs for November.

Despite the new requirement, registration to vote in Virginia is rising, especially online. A large influx of people registering to vote came after March. The influx is thought to be from the new online registration form that began in 2013. The registration rates in 2016, as opposed to 2012, rose 35 percent in Virginia. The rates tripled in Williamsburg and increased by 92 percent in James City.

Some believe this year’s increase is due to the media-drumming presidential candidate Donald Trump. He may be causing the race to be interesting enough to engage people in registering to vote. Whether they are registering to vote in support or opposition is unknown. It is too soon to tell.

The last, but potentially most important, policy shift is Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s decision to allow former felons to vote in the upcoming election. This new allowance must be renewed each month by the governor and may be reversed by the next governor, since his decision, 2,000 felons signed up in the first 2 weeks to be eligible for November.

Republicans claim that Gov. McAuliffe is hoping allowing felons to vote will help democratic candidate Hillary Clinton win Virginia.

All of these policy changes are contributing to Virginia’s importance in elections. However, a setback in Virginia voting is convincing its population to vote in non-presidential election years. In these years, 40 percent of voters cast a ballot, whereas in presidential election years 75 percent of voters head to the polls.