More than 28,000 D.C. residents have registered to vote in the city since the Sept. 11 primary election, a sharp increase that D.C. elections chief Emmett H. Fremaux Jr. said parallels nationwide interest and voter registration for the Nov. 6 presidential contest.
In all, about 72,000 District residents have registered to vote this year, bringing the total number to 275,000, Fremaux said. About 30,000 of the new voters registered from January through April, before the May 1 presidential primary here. Another 14,000 registered during the summer before the September City Council primary elections.
"It's the presidential election" that has drawn the increased registration, Fremaux said. "There's a great upsurge in voter registration all over the country. It's no different here."
Maryland and Virginia elections officials also reported sharp increases in the number of voters in recent weeks.
Maryland's total increased from 2,038,000 in the 1980 presidential election year to 2,253,141, while Virginia's rose from 2,285,436 in January to the current total of 2,666,458. Registration for the Nov. 6 election has ended in all three jurisdictions.
With 275,000 registered voters in the District, Fremaux said, the city's election-day turnout could top the presidential election year record set in 1964, when 198,597 voted in the Johnson-Goldwater race, the first time D.C. residents were allowed to vote for president.
In the last four presidential elections, the District's voter turnout has ranged from 166,000 to 178,000.
Fremaux said he thinks that the current registration figure may be a city record for the number of valid registered voters but that "there's no way to tell" for certain.
After a variety of election day disasters in the District, peaking in 1982 when 22,000 registered voters were forced to cast challenged ballots in order to vote, city officials embarked on a revalidation of registered voters. The names of persons who no longer live here, those who have died and those who have not voted in recent years were purged from the lists.
"For a number of years, the voter list wasn't maintained," said Fremaux. "It had bad information in it."
Fremaux, who took over as the executive director of the D.C. elections board a year ago and has run three relatively problem-free elections since then, said he believes that the current roll of voters "is a solid list. These are voters who are here, active voters."
Still, Fremaux said the expected size of the Nov. 6 turnout and the large number of races on the ballot means "this is the biggest test" for the the D.C. elections operation. "It places a maximum burden on the system, but we're on track" in preparing for it.
In addition to the presidential balloting, six City Council seats are at stake as well as 323 Advisory Neighborhood Commission seats. D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy is unopposed for another two-year term as the District's nonvoting representative in the House.
The city's latest registration figures show that there are 222,536 Democrats (81 percent), 21,747 Republicans (7.9 percent) and 1,326 Statehood Party members (0.5 percent).
A total of 28,688 voters (10.4 percent) are unaffiliated with a party, while the remaining 510 (0.2 percent) are registered with various minor parties.
About 19,300 of the 28,000 who have registered since the Sept. 11 primary are Democrats, while 3,400 registered as Republicans and 4,900 did not list a party affiliation.