If VCU students want a direct voice on the Richmond City Council, they might look east for inspiration – to Williamsburg.
In 2010, students from the College of William and Mary elected one of their own to the Williamsburg City Council. Scott Foster, then a senior, won a five-candidate race with 1,559 votes; his closest competitor garnered about half as many.
William and Mary students accomplished the feat through voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts.
“That was hugely impressive that they were able to register students to vote on William and Mary’s campus and in the Williamsburg community and basically insert the student voice not by contacting their elected official, but by actually getting one of them on City Council,” said Tom Kramer of Virginia21, a statewide advocacy group for college students.
Daniel Namkoong, a senator in VCU’s Student Government Association, would like VCU students to assert themselves politically as William and Mary students did.
“I think it’s possible. The only problem I see is getting students to register to vote in the city. It’s hard enough to get people to vote for national elections,” Namkoong said.
According to the Virginia State Board of Elections, as long as students have a physical residence where they plan to stay, they can register in that precinct. Thus, students in dorms that are open for only eight months of the year can register to vote in the cities where they attend university.
Even some of the members of the Richmond City Council want to see students step up and get involved.
“Some of the greatest accomplishments we’ve made in this country were made by universities’ and students’ leadership,” said City Councilwoman Ellen Robertson. “They’ve made tremendous changes in shaping this country, and so I would embrace that level of leadership from the students.”
— Ryan Murphy