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SIMMONS: Disinterest among voters hard for Republicans, independents to weather

- The Washington Times - Monday, March 31, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Marc Morgan doesn't have a fellow Republican running in Tuesday's mayoral primary. As the sole GOP contender in the at-large D.C. Council race, he's a shoo-in. That doesn't mean Mr. Morgan and the other candidates can afford to be complacent.

The seasonal so-called "sprinter" weather of late, an unpredictable mix of spring sunshine and temperatures stirred by wintry cold and precipitation, helped keep D.C. voters away from early voting sites, which doesn't portend well for Republicans, Libertarians and some Democrats on the April 1 ballot.

In a few words, voter interest sucks.

"We did mailers and phone-banking all week," Mr. Morgan said, lamenting the weather and the tough slog Republicans face in this Democratic stronghold. "We need to motivate the base and get a high number of voters to show up [Tuesday]. I'm spending the majority of the day in Ward 3 and we're doing a literature drop."

The motivation is certainly warranted.

An estimated 14,000 residents cast ballots during this year's two-week-long early voting period, compared with the 2010 tally of more than 21,000.

There was a remarkable change in the electorate between then and now, especially among voting-age millennials, young people whose social media skills and independent streaks fell in line behind the Obama-Biden ticket in 2012.

For the city's civic-minded no-party and party-affiliated voters, the D.C. primary doctrine effectively silences their voices. Independents cannot vote Tuesday, meaning 76,000 have been silenced.

Republicans have no candidate in the mayoral race, so the voices of 27,000 or so registered voters have been quieted until November.

Enter the Libertarians, who have strategically positioned themselves as the new Democratic alternative this election.

"Libertarians split the difference between Democrats and Republicans," said Martin Moulton, a Libertarian running citywide for D.C. shadow representative. And Libertarians traditionally move toward smaller government, a Republican thing that makes Democrats cringe.

Republican and Libertarian candidates also are in the same camp on another issue: energizing the electorate.

Mr. Morgan actually faulted his party for being lethargic.

"We need to raise money and go out there and knock on doors, be in constant contact with voters," he said.

See, D.C. Dems don't have to be in constant contact with voters because, of the 446,194 registered voters in the nation's capital, 337,980 of them are Democrats.

Tsk, tsk, tsk — they get a two-year break.

But it's been such a grueling campaign, even I'm taking a respite until April 11.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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