Voting in Virginia is unique privilege given state’s recent political competitiveness

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MAGGIE MORE / THE FLAT HAT

As students at the College of William and Mary, we have all come to love — or at least tolerate — our adopted home state of Virginia.

Sure, the Old Dominion has its flaws; for example, tensions between Northern Virginia and the rest of the state are intense and bitter, especially at the College (where derisive comments about “NoVa” seemingly make their way into every conversation). Our undeniably racist history is a glaring stain on our state’s collective identity. As I am confident we all know, traffic on Interstate Highway 64 East is truly unbearable.
Like every other state, Virginia is imperfect. But as a resident of the Commonwealth for 19 years, I still possess an inexplicable affection for the Old Dominion, in part due to its irregular election calendar.

I was obsessed with elections as a young teenager, and I adored watching forecasting models and pundit predictions. While it pains me to praise the University of Virginia, I grew up poring over blog posts from UVA political analyst Larry Sabato and meticulously tracking his prognostications for Virginia’s gubernatorial and congressional races. I was especially enamored with the Huffington Post’s forecast map in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election, paying close attention to the varying hues of blue and red that were always cast all over the Commonwealth.

Throughout my adolescence, I’ve always been fascinated by the political evolution of my home state, and luckily, Virginia’s electoral schedule allows me to indulge my strange addiction, as there are always a plethora of competitive races to watch.
Two years ago, Virginia’s support of Hillary Clinton was a watershed moment in our state’s political history. The Old Dominion became the only former Confederate state to support Mrs. Clinton’s presidential bid in a rare Democratic sucess that election year.

A year later, in 2017, Virginia politics once again entered the national spotlight, as our gubernatorial race became a proxy battle of partisan support in the Trump era. Last year’s state legislative elections were similarly thrilling to watch and resulted in a stunning 51-49 split in the House of Delegates. Next year, in November 2019, we can expect even more competitive elections, as all 40 seats in our state’s upper chamber are up for grabs.

But most importantly, eyes from coast to coast are on Virginia as voters go to the polls for the 2018 midterms. Sen. Tim Kaine is running for reelection after losing his bid for the vice presidency a short two years ago, and several of our state’s congressional races for the House of Representatives are among the nation’s most contested.

Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District features an exceptionally close race, and the College’s student population could play a key role in the selection of our next representative in Washington, D.C. I have spent countless hours in Earl Gregg Swem Library idling through FiveThirtyEight, Politico and The Hill during the past few months, looking at election coverage.

Now, we stand on the precipice of what could be a monumental midterm season for our country. Regardless of the outcome, I am eager to be a voter during my state’s era in the political spotlight. I hope you all take advantage of the same privilege this exciting election day.

Email Ethan Brown at ewbrown@email.wm.edu.