Last year, I was excited to vote in my first election ever. I know this is a very William and Mary thing to say, but it’s true. The culture of political engagement and activism on campus is unlike that of many others in the state, and maybe even the country, and there’s one form of activism that seems to be everywhere, from the Terrace, to the Caf, to Swampy Memes, even to Tinder. Say it with me: “Hi, are you registered to vote in Williamsburg?”
Yes, those people with clipboards are annoying. But I’m not arguing that you shouldn’t vote just to spite them. Voting is a civic duty and one I take seriously. We, as citizens, get the chance to make our voices heard in our local, state and national politics, and it’s important to do so.
However, it’s perfectly acceptable to vote at home instead of in Williamsburg. I personally am registered back home in Fairfax County. Even so, I don’t feel guilty when a person tabling asks me if I’m voting in Williamsburg. If you’re not sure whether you want to vote at home or here, there are a couple of questions you can ask yourself to determine where your priorities are.
First off, it’s imperative to consider your hometown’s political climate. Are the races back home competitive? Do you feel like your vote matters?
I answered yes to both of those questions. Fairfax is one of the most important counties in both state and national elections. I also live in a close school board district and feel like my vote can help swing the tide there.
Another question you should ask yourself is how much you care about local government in both your hometown and in Williamsburg. Both my parents work in public schools, so local government in Fairfax can impact them immensely. For example, this year, a Fairfax County School Board member resigned, leaving an open seat. I felt strongly about the special election to fill the seat, so I made sure to have an absentee ballot sent to Williamsburg.
The most important thing about voting is that you’re making a difference in a locality that you care about, not where that locality is.
Lastly, do you have any connections to local election candidates either in your hometown or in Williamsburg? I personally don’t, but I have friends who have worked in campaigns both back home and here at the College. If you are one of those people, then you should vote in their district.
Of course, if the answer is no to either or both of those questions, go ahead and vote in Williamsburg. But don’t just change your voter registration because you feel guilty ignoring the people outside Sadler. The most important thing about voting is that you’re making a difference in a locality that you care about, not where that locality is.
Email Brendan Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org