DESPITE REPORTS of an early death, the campaign for District voting rights has been showing signs of vitality lately. The most important of these has been the linkage of local forces -- previously split -- to work for the voting rights drive at the national political conventions and in California. At the conventions there were efforts, largely unsuccessful, to elevate the importance of the voting rights drive in party platforms. But there were also successful visits from District delegates at the conventions to every state delegation, the object being to talk over the merits of the voting rights drive and to recruit help for the next time the issue comes to that state's legislature for a vote.

The idea of locating friends of the amendment in every state is now the center of the voting rights effort. Church groups, political and social clubs, unions and politicians who support the drive are being identified and enlisted to help win over their state legislators. Gone are the days when a star-studded delegation from the District would wing into a state and argue that it was the American way for District residents to have representation in Congress. That approach proved naive to the point of almost killing the amendment. The plan now is for District people to play a supportive, behind-the-scenes role.

For example, today or in the next few days, a vote on the amendment is likely to come up in California. Dick Clark, chairman of the National Coalition for Self-Determination for the District, is in California working with friends of the amendment to form a pro-amendment majority in the state Senate. He is in touch, over the phone, with the District's non-voting delegate to Congress, Walter Fauntroy.Mr. Fauntroy still has his own group working to get the amendment passed, but it is not now as active as Mr. Clark's group, so they have joined forces.

If the amendment passes there, California would become the 10th state to have ratified it. Thirty-eight are needed. After California, plans are to concentrate efforts next year in 12 states where there are good chances that the drive will be successful. But money is needed, as is pointed out in an article on the opposite page today by Joseph L. Rauh Jr. and Harold Himmelman. The money will go for the battle against an array of weak or irrelevant arguments, among them: that the founding fathers did not intend for the District's residents to have voting rights; that some states have counties bigger than the District but those counties don't have two senators; that representatives from the District are likely to favor urban issues, be Democrats and be black. Those arguments can be countered. But it will cost money to do so in the five years left to gain ratification.

What is key to success is that efforts for the cause not splinter here in the city.