- The Washington Times - Monday, December 29, 2003

The first votes in the 2004 presidential primaries were cast yesterday, but voters could choose from only four of the nine Democratic candidates.

“There aren’t many to pick from,” said Averil Kadis, 69, a retired librarian and one of 15 D.C. residents to cast absentee ballots yesterday.

Mrs. Kadis, who said she voted for former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, submitted her absentee ballot at the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics office.

She has not missed an election in about 40 years, and this year’s primary coming so early didn’t break her streak, even if several candidates were missing from the ballot.

“I’m upset so many candidates chose to ignore this day,” Mrs. Kadis said. “I think they do us a real disservice. They take us for granted.”

On Jan. 13, D.C. voters will for the first time host the first presidential primary, selecting their Democratic and Green Party presidential nominees.

The primary is nonbinding, however, which means the results will not affect D.C. delegate votes at the Democratic National Convention. D.C. Democrats organized the early primary because they wanted to highlight the city’s lack of a vote in Congress.

A. Scott Bolden, chairman of the D.C. Democratic Party, called Jan. 13 a “litmus test” that will be closely watched by candidates and political pundits alike.

“Having the first primary in the country sends a strong message about where the urban electorate stands on the candidates,” he said. “It’s a test for the candidates and a test for how active local Democratic leaders are. But we need to pass that test with a major turnout.”

Five major Democratic presidential candidates asked not be included on the ballot, citing Democratic National Committee rules that dictate New Hampshire’s Jan. 27 primary be the country’s first.

The four candidates on the ballot are Mr. Dean, civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton, former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois and Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio.

Sens. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, John Kerry of Massachusetts and John Edwards of North Carolina, Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri and Wesley Clark of Arkansas said they wanted to avoid threatening the traditional roles of New Hampshire and Iowa as the earliest contests in the presidential election cycle.

Sam Farmer, founder of DCFirst.org, which advocated for the early primary, called yesterday’s vote “historic,” even though it was nonbinding.

“It is [still] the first time that D.C.’s voice has ever really been heard during a presidential primary,” he said.

Political activist Timothy Cooper cast the first ballot yesterday after waiting for D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics offices to open at 8:30 a.m.

“I was the first voter, and I voted for Dean,” said Mr. Cooper, executive director of Democracy First, which lobbies for full congressional voting power for the District.

“My hope is that as D.C. goes, so goes the nation,” he said.

Mr. Cooper also claimed that the District has now replaced Dixville Notch, a small township in New Hampshire, as the first place in the country to cast votes for president.

Residents in Dixville Notch typically cast their votes on midnight of the primary day. “It is an honor and a privilege to be the first person to cast the first vote,” Mr. Cooper said.

The news didn’t sit well with residents in Dixville Notch.

“I haven’t thought much about the D.C. primary, and I don’t think the rest of the nation has, either,” said Steven Barba, a Dixville Notch selectman. “I think it’s a publicity stunt. In the end, though, I’m not jealous or fearful. Anything that calls the American public’s attention to who will be the next president of the United States is a good thing.”

D.C. voters who need to cast absentee ballots in the primary can do so at the election board offices until Jan. 12. Requests for mail-in ballots must be made by Jan. 6.

The election board has already received 200 completed ballots through the mail, and officials are waiting on 800 others, board spokesman Bill O’Field said.

Mr. O’Field said the Democratic primary ballot does not include a write-in option because local party leaders did not request it.

Caucuses will be held in each of the city’s eight wards Feb. 14. Delegates who will attend the July Democratic convention will be chose in March.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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