NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Ahead of a gubernatorial candidate roundtable with 10 On Your Side, Norfolk State University’s legal and political analyst is sharing the importance of voting.
Next month, Virginians will head to the polls to cast their ballots for who they think should be the commonwealth’s next governor.
“The best part of living in Virginia is there’s an election every year and every election is important,” said Dr. Eric Claville. “Why’s that? Because we are giving our voice to policy that’s going to impact our everyday life and place individuals in positions.”
While many groups in American history have worked to get and expand the right to vote, Claville says some people have recently become more aware of the power they hold at the polls.
“I believe there’s been an awakening of the power of the people in rights to vote and how voting can not just change your community but your state and country,” he said.
There’s also been more interest in running for public office since the elections of former President Barack Obama, according to Claville.
“We’ve seen a lot of individuals say ‘I can do it.’ People in our community who have been fighting for better lives for our community are saying now ‘I can take the next step and create the policy change. My community is important.’ For people running for office, those elected officials, and re-running are actually representing the voices of the communities they serve,” he said.
But while more people may be interested in running, Claville says there’s also been pushback by some states to stop expanding access.
“When the people vote with their voice, their voices are heard. There are some states that like that and others that don’t,” he said. “We see the changes taking place across many states with expanding access to the ballot box and restricting access.”
Claville used the example of Virginia expanding voting access with the recent signing of the Voting Rights Act of Virginia over the summer.
Some ways that restrict access include cutting polling locations, polling hours, and voter ID laws, which Claville says providing certain types of IDs can be difficult for people living in poverty.
The prohibition of passing out refreshments and water to voters standing in line at polling locations in Georgia is also another example according to Claville, who says it’s similar to Jim Crow-era laws.
“It’s reminiscent but it’s the same effect of stopping individuals to vote,” he said.
The commonwealth is currently in the early stages of its Redistricting Commission, which was voted on during the 2020 election as a way to prevent gerrymandering, which is the process of changing election districts to favor certain political parties.
Claville says the committee is there for transparency and gives the public a voice to comment on the process.
“The jury is still out if it will work or not. we are in the first year of our commission. We will have to see the end result but just like our democracy, it’s still in the works.”
While the United States is still a young country, Claville believes democracy can be an example of how we should live.
“It’s the only mechanism that constantly changes and provides an immediate impact to our everyday lives. It’s also the exchange of ideas, the exercise of negotiation and compromise,” he said. “At the end, it’s the ability of human beings to come together to agree on one point that’s going to have a reverberating impact. To me, that’s the essence of why we exist. But be kind and make change in our everyday lives, that keeps me going every day.”
For more about the importance of voting and the impact of redistricting you can view “Building Blocks of Democracy,” an educational collaboration between League of Women Voters of Virginia and Norfolk State University.