THE CITY'S Board of Elections has come to expect a relative lack of interest in voter registration in non-presidential election years, but there appears to be an inspiring level of electoral fever at work in the District this year, despite several distractions. The D.C. voter rolls had swelled to 293,179 by noon on Friday. That's a city record for an upcoming primary and close to the all-time high recorded before the presidential election in November of 1988. It's also the largest reliable registration figure in a non-presidential election year in more than a decade, according to D.C. Board of Elections officials.
Candidate forums have been plentiful, well-organized and well-attended, and interest in holding political office has been brisk. The city will have a new mayor for the first time in 12 years, and seven people will be on the ballot in next month's primary. Washington hasn't had a new delegate to the House of Representatives in nearly two decades, and in September voters will choose from among nine people who want the job. There are 22 candidates for D.C. Council seats, and more than three dozen are vying for seats on the D.C. Board of Education. Excitement about the city's 323 single-member ANC posts has continued to build. In just 2 1/2 days, 117 people have sought petitions to get onto the ANC ballot.
The Board of Elections also deserves some credit because of its use of innovative methods that have simplified the task of voter registration. More than 57 percent of the new registrations have come from the "motor voter" program, in which everyone who comes in to get a new driver's license, or to renew one, can sign up for the voter rolls on the spot. The city has also distributed thousands of return postage-paid cards allowing residents to receive registration forms through the mail.
One might have thought that there was little enthusiasm present in a city that has faced so many distractions and pressing social and budgetary problems. This city has endured the criminal trial of Marion Barry and a mayoral campaign in which no one has emerged as a clear favorite in political polls. Once again, our limited Home Rule status also means that residents will cast ballots for a delegate who can't vote, and for "senators" and a "representative" who won't even have real offices on the Hill. But the city's political spirit seems to be very much alive.