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Determined Voters Line Up to Be Counted

In the District, where 85 percent of voters chose Al Gore in 2000, there were no massive get-out-the-vote drives like those happening in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. It made no difference, though; voter turnout in the District was expected to approach record levels yesterday, as it did when about 70 percent of registered voters went to the polls four years ago.

"Everyone knows Kerry's going to get 80 percent of D.C., so I'm not aware of any real get-out-the-vote efforts. They're really not necessary," said Jeffrey Norman, treasurer of the D.C. Democratic Party. "We are the most non-battleground state in the whole country, but a lot of people vote and want to feel part of the nation at election time."

At Margaret Schweinhaut Senior Center in Silver Spring, voters get assistance from a poll worker in using an electronic voting machine while another voter casts her ballot. (Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)

Many local activists who might otherwise have been handing out literature at polling stations cast absentee ballots before yesterday and hitched rides to such places as Philadelphia and Cleveland, where their activism might have a greater impact, according to Democratic and Republican officials.

"I just tried to get someone to cover a precinct, and I found out they were in Florida," said Betsy Werronen, chairman of the D.C. Republican Committee. "So we have people covering precincts, just not in D.C."

The 2000 election demonstrated the difference between the popular and electoral vote -- a lesson that many voters said made them more eager to cast ballots than before. The popular vote, they said, has become powerfully symbolic -- even if the electoral votes actually decide the presidency.

"You want to get that popular vote up," said Leah Daniels, 24, a used-book store manager from Capitol Hill who waited in line for an hour to vote. "Every vote counts."

Some of those aligned with the minority party -- Democrats in Virginia and Republicans in the District and Maryland -- said they felt even more of a duty to vote to let people know that they do, in fact, exist and should not be brushed aside.

"That makes it that much more important," said Rebecca Conner, 40, a child-care provider from Waldorf who said she voted for Bush. "I don't think I'm going to let what other people think sway my opinion. I'm going to express my opinion."

Security at the polls became an issue in the weeks leading to the election, as some worried about possible terrorist strikes. But most polling places showed no signs of increased security yesterday, and the length of the lines was the more pressing concern.

Some voters -- such as Furmon and Tracy Jordan of Fairfax -- found enormous lines early in the morning and decided to come back to vote later, only to encounter waits almost as long when they returned.

For many, the lines weren't so much an inconvenience as they were encouraging signs of an engaged electorate.

"I've never in my life seen so many people voting," said Sherry Kelly-Williams, 44, who has voted in every election in Alexandria since she was 18. "It shows that everyone is excited, everyone is participating. And especially as a black woman, that's good to see. We fought so hard for these rights."

Jamie Yang said she had been looking forward to this election for years. The 32-year-old Fairfax resident moved to the United States with her family from Korea when she was 18, and she became a citizen three years ago.

"I like the fact that I can participate in this kind of system," Yang said. "I was anxious to do this -- it's the first time I've had the right. I really believe I can help make some changes, however little it might be."

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