LU Cancels Classes for Lynchburg City Council Election

While I fully support efforts to get people registered to vote and encouraging them to exercise that right, the idea of canceling classes and busing students to the polls for a election to fill three at-large seats on the city council seems to be a bit much, doesn’t it: 

Liberty University has canceled classes until 2 p.m. and has begun busing students to Heritage Elementary School, the polling place for students registered under LU’s dorm address.

Weeks of campaigning will come to an end today as Lynchburg voters head to the polls to pick their next three at-large City Council members.

All voters throughout the city will be able to vote for three of the eight candidates seeking office.

The school will still offer a special Election Day shuttle service from its campus to Heritage Elementary. It will also hold an additional convocation this morning during which Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. is expected to speak and encourage students to vote.

LU has been conducting an aggressive get-out-the-vote campaign among its students, faculty, staff, alumni and general supporters within the community.

The school recently conducted an online mock election through its website. It declined to release the results of that exercise.

Across the city, there are 48,671 registered voters. Turnout for council elections is generally low.

As we’ve noted before, Liberty is intent on getting its zoning status changed and the current City Council has been reluctant to do LU’s bidding, so officials have made this election a central focus for LU students and alumni.

And considering that LU students represent nearly 10% of registered voters in Lynchburg, it seems quite likely that, by tomorrow, the university will be well positioned to weild a significant amount of control of workings of the Lynchburg City Council.

UPDATEHere is more information on the special LU convocation held today:

Liberty University students headed to the polls this morning following a special convocation in which LU Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. urged them to vote.

“You need to exercise your God-given right to vote locally so the city councilmen are thinking about you when they sit down to decide whether to spend your tax dollars on fancy stone sidewalks and traffic circles downtown or whether to spend those dollars on improvements to make Wards Road safer to cross,“ Falwell told students.

LU canceled classes until 2 p.m. today to boost student participation in the election, in which eight candidates—four Republicans, four independents—compete for three at-large seats on Lynchburg City Council.

Falwell cited the meals tax and conditional-use permit process as other reasons to vote. LU officials have said the tax for eating at restaurants—6.5 percent—is burdensome to students and have said the city’s permit process inhibits the university’s growth.

“We’re not going to tell you who to vote for,“ Falwell said, “but we’re going tell you to vote your values and to vote for the candidate who is most closely aligned with your values and belief system.“

Del. Scott Garrett, R-Lynchburg, also spoke at convocation and emphasized family values and fiscal conservatism.

“Your vote matters. Value your vote and vote your values,“ Garrett said.