Voter Registration Deadline Is 2 Weeks Away

Pollsters Predict Razor-Thin Margin in Presidential Race

As the presidential race comes down to the wire, both Sen. John McCain, D-Ariz., and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., will literally be counting on every single vote. Pollsters predict that the popular vote count between the two candidates will be razor thin in this historic race, as it was in the previous two presidential elections. With the voter registration deadline for the District less than two weeks away, political groups are pushing to get the 17 percent of adult residents who are not yet registered to vote.

Washington has an estimated 466,000 residents who are of voting age, according to U.S. Census Bureau. The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics reports that 388,127 voters were registered, as of Aug. 11, for the upcoming general election in which the ballot not only counts the historic presidential race but also local races. This year’s number of registered voters is about 20,000 higher than 2004’s election total for the same time frame. “We have council races in four wards,” said Dan Murphy, public information officer for D.C.’s election board. “There will be local races for congressional seats and for the city’s various Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners as well.” (Click here for election results for the Sept. 9 local primaries.)

The District’s deadline to vote in the Nov. 4 general election is Oct. 6. Murphy says that the easiest way to register before that deadline is online at http://www.dcboee.org. Each state has its own voter registration deadline dates. Voters casting ballots outside of the District must check with their state’s respective board of elections.

On the Web site for D.C.’s election board, voters are able to handle not only voter registration-related matters but also find other invaluable information such as locations of polling places, as well as election and candidate information. To be counted on the final voter rolls, simply registering online isn’t sufficient. A copy of the registration must be printed, signed and mailed in as well. Murphy says that federal law requires original signatures. According to the board of elections, a resident must be at least 18 years of age by Nov. 4 and a U.S. citizen to register to vote in Washington. Mail-in voter registration forms are available at public buildings such as libraries and community centers. Residents can also register in person at the board’s office at 441 4th St. N.W., Suite 250 North. Registered voters who are legitimately unable to make it to a polling station at election can request an absentee ballot. “You can request an absentee ballot on our Web site or send a letter requesting one,” Murphy said. “The last day to request a ballot is Tuesday, Oct. 28.” The deadline for in-person absentee voting is 4:45 p.m. on Nov. 3, the day before election day. Registered voters do not need to re-register unless pertinent information has changed since the last election such party affiliation, address or name. Murphy shares that most voters do not need an ID to vote in D.C. on election day. Only a signature, which will be verified, is required. A false signature will be met with a perjury charge, he said.

Federal law requires identification for first-time voters and voters who mailed in their registration. Examples of an acceptable identification at polling places include valid photo identification or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck stub or some other government document that confirms the voter’s name and address. “Voters that have not participated in previous elections may have fell off the active list of voters,” Murphy said. “An extra step is required when you get there.” Rev. Lennox Yearwood, president of the non-profit Hip Hop Caucus, is spearheading a voter registration campaign aimed at the hundreds of thousands of ex-felons and non-college educated young adults who are not registered. Much like Sean “Diddy” Comb’s high-profile 2004 “Vote or Die” campaign, which Yearwood helped organize, his “Respect My Vote” campaign is also using a public figure to get the word out about the importance of registering. This time, rap superstar T.I. is the face of the campaign. The reverend wants ex-felons to know that they are not barred from voting in Washington. Swing states Virginia, Nevada, Florida and 10 others have laws that bar their citizens with felony records from voting. “This is not the case in some states like Virginia, unfortunately, but many citizens that have felonies on their records are able to in D.C. and Maryland,” Yearwood said. He, too, urges voters to go online to register. His organization set up a link on its Web site, http://www.hiphopcaucus.org, where people can register. The Hip Hop Caucus not only delivers applications to local boards of elections, but it also automatically reminds registrants to vote. “We follow up with them,” Yearwood said. “That’s our job. We follow up with them to make sure they made it on the voter rolls. We remind them using text, emails, whatever it take to ensure voter turnout.”