Williamsburg sees largest Va. voter growth

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October 21, 2008

2:07 AM

The City of Williamsburg’s registered voter population has increased by nearly 15 percent since Jan. 1, the largest percent increase of any city or county in Virginia.

According to the Virginia State Board of Elections, 846 people transferred their voter registration from other locations to Williamsburg. The city also registered 948 first-time voters, bringing the total number of new registrations to 1,794.

Williamsburg enjoyed the greatest percentage growth of all Virginia cities and counties. The runners-up, Charlottesville, Richmond, Lynchburg and Montgomery County, all host large universities.

“[This] is enormous,” Student Assembly President Valerie Hopkins ’09 said. “I am incredibly pleased that there are so many first-time voters in Williamsburg, and that so many students are taking an active role in the political process. [Students at the College] are defying stereotypes about youth apathy.”
Hopkins attributed the large increase in registered voters to the combined registration efforts of different campus groups.

“This is also a testament to the students who have worked hard to ensure that everyone had the opportunity to register — whether it was students working for the Student Assembly, or the Obama and McCain campaigns, or the Virginia Organizing Project,” Hopkins said. “Our students have really taken initiative in this election, and I am so proud of them.”

The Williamsburg Voter Registrar’s office has been busy processing the large number of applications continuously since the Oct. 6 registration deadline, Williamsburg Voter Registrar Winifred Sowder said.

“We have been so bombarded [by applications], we’ve been working almost non-stop,” Sowder said. “We’ve definitely had a lot of students, I’ll tell you that.”

In 2007, 927 people either transferred their registration or registered for the first time in Williamsburg. This year saw an increase in registration applications of 51.6 percent, adding 1,190 voters to the rolls and increasing Williamsburg’s registered voter population to 8,046.

“It’s definitely a testament to the work that’s been put in by everybody to get students registered to vote in Williamsburg,” SA Secretary for Public Affairs David Witkowsky ’11 said.

Witkowsky said he was satisfied with the final tally of voters and hopes to build on that base in the future.

“We clearly did everything that we could, and we clearly registered as many students as we possibly could,” Witkowsky said. “Not everyone’s going to want to register to vote in Williamsburg. Unfortunately, [there are] people [who] don’t want to vote, or don’t care enough to take the time and effort to vote, so [registering] 100 percent [of College students] is not realistic. What’s realistic is getting as many people as possible.”
Calfee stressed the importance of voting in the November election, where a lot is at stake.

“We are making a decision about the direction we want to take the nation that we will soon inherit, so it is vitally important that every student, regardless of their political affiliation, has a chance to cast a ballot and make their voice heard,” Calfee said.

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