Democrats voting young at conservative Liberty University

Jasmine Dawkins was one of the Democratic students I talked to at conservative Liberty University. The Democratic club was kicked off campus in 2009 but eventually allowed to return. Photo/Heather Caygle

On Saturday, May 12, presumed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney took to the stage in Lynchburg, Va., (about 4 hours south of D.C.), to deliver the commencement address at Liberty University. Liberty, a Christian college founded in 1971 by Rev. Jerry Falwell, has long been a beacon of conservative principles.

In 2009, the university Democrats club was kicked off campus for allegedly going against those conservative principles. Although the club was allowed to come back a few months later–albeit with a name change–the club remained dormant until fall 2011. About a month ago, before the announcement of Romney as commencement speaker, I traveled down to Lynchburg to talk with first-time voters who were members of the campus Democratic club.

It was interesting to hear from Democratic students who are not a minority nationally but are certainly a minority at Liberty. Jasmine Dawkins, a junior studying political science, said all of her professors are very conservative. She even had to read a book on how President Obama is an endangerment to national sovereignty and was tested on it. Until recently, there was a sign next to a picture of Obama that asked students not to throw spitballs.

My article was a part of a larger project on first-time voters in the Washington metro area called Voting Young. As part of the project, we also conducted an independent survey, talked to students on Howard University’s campus about whether race matters when voting and interviewed young new citizens about how they feel voting in a country that just became their home. There are many other articles, photos, 3 videos, infographics, expert interviews and data–check it out.

Full disclosure: Not only did I write for the Voting Young project, but I was also managing editor and am very proud of our work

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