Home state advantages: HU students’ strategic voting

By Brian Sprowl

Many students at Hampton University took part in the Nov. 6 presidential election. They hit the polls strong throughout the day, casting their ballots for the candidate they deemed best fit to run the country the next four years.

While many non-Virginian residents at HU changed their state of registration to make their vote count in one of the most important swing states in the election, other students decided to cast votes in home states via absentee ballots. And for many students from these states, their votes mattered just as much away as it did in Virginia.

Before the elections, juniors Jared Smith and Kadeem Russell were interviewed about their reasoning behind voting absentee. Smith, who is aviation major from Cincinnati, said that "since Ohio is a battleground state, I decided to vote absentee because my vote would matter just as much there as it would here."

At that time, according to an article published by CNN.com on Oct. 31, the race for Ohio was neck and neck with President Barack Obama holding a slight lead. Obama went on to win Ohio and its 18 electoral votes by a slim margin, receiving just over 50 percent of the votes to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's 48 percent.

In terms of popular vote, Obama received a little over more than 100,000 more popular votes than Romney.

Russell, who is a chemical engineering major from Cape Coral, Fla., also voted absentee. His reasoning was slightly different than Smith's, but his vote was just as important. "I decided to vote absentee instead of changing my registration to Virginia because it was an easier process in my opinion," said Russell. "It was less paperwork since I was already registered in Florida."

Florida was the main state that had Hampton students on edge, being that it carried 29 electoral votes, the highest among the swing states up for grabs. Ultimately, Florida wasn't called until a few days after the election according to various news outlets such as CNN and Obama won without it being officially confirmed, but he did indeed win Florida narrowly, receiving 50 percent of the vote to Romney's 49 percent.

The election results brought about a collective sigh of relief from the student body at Hampton. Junior English major Trevor Parker from Fairless Hills, Pa., voted absentee and was pleased with the outcome.

"It's great that we got him [Obama] re-elected," said Parker. "He did a lot of good things in his first term with health care and helping college students. I think he will continue to help the American people, and make things fair for everyone." During the summer, Parker volunteered with an Obama campaign office in Pennsylvania. The Keystone State was another important state with 20 electoral votes up for grabs. Obama received 52 percent of the votes compared to Romney's nearly 47 percent.

Parker said that his reasoning for voting absentee was that he felt his vote would be just as helpful back home as it would be in Virginia, citing that Obama had won Virginia back in the 2008 election. But as First Lady Michelle Obama cited in her speech to Hampton students on Friday, Nov. 2, Virginia was an extremely close race in 08, as Obama won by about 235,000 votes.

This year, Virginia was once again a close race and for much of the night, Obama actually trailed Romney in Virginia. But as the night progressed, he made up ground and eventually ended up winning the swing state and its 13 electoral votes. This year, Obama won Virginia by a little more than 100,000 votes.

Former Hampton student Carl Bennett was in town during the election activities. Bennett, who recently moved to Yonkers, N.Y., was still registered to vote in Virginia and decided to stick with his current state of registration. He voted absentee just days before the election.

Bennett was happy about the re-election of the president, but he also has high standards for his second term.

"Romney didn't appeal to all the demographics, so it is his fault that he loss," said Bennett. "Overall, I am happy that Obama is getting four more years to fix the mess we are in, but he has got to make things happen. It's no time for just subtle reminders; it's time for him to actually make good on his slogan from four years ago."

Obama's slogan when he ran and won the presidency in 2008 was "Change." His slogan this year was While most students voted absentee to support their home states, most of which were swing states, junior English major Marcus Somerville actually wishes he switched his state of registration. Somerville, who is from Germantown, Md., voted absentee simply because he was going to be on campus on Election Day instead of home.

"I wish I would have registered in Virginia because of the greater opportunity to help him win in a historically red state instead of a blue state," said Somerville. "I didn't really recognize my mistake until afterwards."

Obama won Maryland relatively easy by receiving nearly 62 percent of the vote.

Somerville is still pleased that Obama was re-elected. "I am glad that he was re-elected. I don't really identify with any party lines, but I agree with Obama's political ideologies more so than his counterpart Romney."

The writer is a junior in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

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