Washington may be in for a record turnout in the Sept. 9 primary election -- if the marked increase in the volume of voter registrations bears out its promise. Delores Woods, D.C. deputy elections administrator, said the Board of Elections and Ethics has been receiving between 200 and 300 completed forms each day, up dramatically from the usual trickle, since a July 17 Washington Post article about the low level of voter participation in local politics.
Public libraries, which distribute the forms, "have been deluged with calls," she said.
"I think people may have finally realized that it's especially crucial to cast a vote if youlive in the District. It's important here because there's always some question as to how interested Washington's voters really are."
Though a final count of registered voters will not be available until after the close of registration Monday, there should be a heavy increase in the numbers entered on the books, Woods said. There were about 256,500 persons registered as of July 1, the last date for which figures are available. An estimated 350,000 to 400,000 D.C. residents are eligible to vote.
In the Sept. 9 election, which is the party primary for the City Council, there are two at-large seats to be determined, as well as slots in Wards 2,4,7 and 8.
Voter registration drives around town are contributing to the unusually high showing. The Mayfair Mansions Tenant Association, for example, is conducting a registration campaign in the Mayfair Mansion, Paradise and Parkside neighborhoods of far Northeast Washington this week. Darrell R. Matthews, president of the organization, estimates about 6,000 potential voters live in the area, and says his group would like to "register as many people as we can between now and Saturday."
"I view voting," he said, "as the single most important responsibility a person has in terms of being a responsible part of the community."
To be elligible to vote in the District, a person must be at least 18 years old on or before the date of the next election, be a U.S. citizen, have been a D.C. resident for at least 30 days and not be registered elsewhere.
Registration ends at the close of the business day Monday, but Woods said forms received later will be accepted if they have an Aug. 11 postmark.
The registration deadline for the Nov. 4 election is Oct. 6.