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Battleground Dispatches: Voter Voices from Virginia

The unemployment rate in Virginia, at 5.8 percent as of August 2012, is lower than the national average.

Sequestration is a looming issue for Virginia. The term describes a set of automatic budget cuts resulting from last year’s debt ceiling deal, and could have a serious impact in the commonwealth if they come to pass. Particularly, the cuts in defense spending could have a lasting impact in Hampton Roads, where some forty percent of the population is employed by businesses that support the military.

So is it an issue on Virginia voters’ minds? The NewsHour has been interviewing voters across the country for the Listen to Me project and although no Virginians mentioned sequestration by name, the majority of the commonwealth’s voters interviewed for the project said the economy and jobs were the most important issues this election cycle. It is up to the lame-duck session in Congress to find a compromise to stop sequestration. But many of the Virginians also voiced a concern with bipartisanship in Washington and a dissatisfaction with Capitol Hill.

Benjamin Garrett, who thinks the economy and creating jobs are the most important issues, is hopeful for the future, but worried about how Congress is functioning. “It seems to be a lot of hold ups in Congress,” he said. “I think working together a little bit more, that should help things for the future.”

He suggested putting term limits on Congress, of twelve years. “If they can’t accomplish what they can in twelve years then perhaps it’s time to put somebody else in Congress.”

Nancy Arnold is hopeful for the future, too, but doesn’t think it will be easy for the the winner of the presidential election to work with the legislative branch. “We still have a lot of issues that we have to address, but I hope that a Congress can get together and this is one of the things impeding us in getting things done.”

Other voters feel Washington is too polarized.

“I think we need to start thinking about, again getting the parties together, stop being so polarized on every issue.” said Kathleen Hammer. “It seems to be, if it’s a Republican they can’t agree with the Democrat, even if the ideas are the same.”

Megan Tolosa agrees: “I think both parties need to work together and come to an agreement instead of just fighting for ‘I’m a Republican,’ ‘I’m a Democrat,’ ‘we need to do this.’ I think they need to both just meet in the middle somewhere and work for the people and be mindful of our spending.”

Stephen Willard thinks the country should do away with the two party system altogether. “Political party lines divide us to a point where we cannot actually elect the person we want to elect,” he said.

Tune in to Friday’s NewsHour to watch Todd Zwillich of Public Radio International report from Ohio on how the auto-bailout and energy boom are impacting the economy and voters there. It is the fourth segment in the NewsHour’s series, “Battleground Dispatches,” a project funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in collaboration with public media partners around the country to bring you stories from areas critical to this year’s election.

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