- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Voters in the District, Maryland and Virginia go to the polls today to elect members to the U.S. House, Senate and various local government offices and to cast ballots in a tight presidential race.

Election officials, citing a recent spike in newly registered voters, high interest in the presidential race and a pleasant fall forecast, expect a record turnout — perhaps as high as 80 percent.

The National Weather Service said temperatures will be in the upper 60s with mostly cloudy skies and a 30 percent chance of showers after the polls close.

Polls in the District and Maryland are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Virginia polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

A new federal law requires jurisdictions nationwide to ask all first-time voters to present some form of identification, but Virginia is the only area jurisdiction where poll workers are instructed to ask all voters to present identification.

Virginia voters who don’t have acceptable identification — a voter-registration card, driver’s license, or government or employment ID card — are allowed to cast a ballot after signing an affirmation of identity.

“What we really want to stress is that you cannot be turned away at the polls because you don’t have identification,” said Clay Landa, a policy analyst for the Virginia State Board of Elections.

Under the Help America Vote Act, adopted in 2002, first-time voters who registered by mail since Jan. 1, 2003, must be asked to show identification. First-time voters who lack identification can cast a provisional ballot that will be counted after officials verify the voter’s eligibility.

For other voters, the requirements in Maryland and the District are simpler: neither jurisdiction requires any presen- tation of identification, though Maryland does ask that voters provide their name, address and the day and month of their birth.

Would-be voters in the District are urged to carry their identification anyway, though. Officials say a valid ID might be necessary to get into some of the government buildings where the polling stations are located.

In accordance with the federal Voting Rights Act and local election laws, all three jurisdictions allow voters who are illiterate, don’t understand English or suffer from mental of physical handicaps to vote with the assistance of a friend or poll worker.

Federal and local laws prohibit voters from being assisted by their employers, union representatives or agents of their employers or unions. People who have been deemed mentally incompetent by the courts are not permitted to vote, similar to laws that exclude convicted felons from the voting booth.

In addition to casting ballots for president, voters in the District, Maryland and Virginia will be deciding some spirited local and state races.

Voters in the District’s Ward 8 are expected to return former Mayor Marion Barry to city government as their representative on the D.C. Council. The economically downtrodden but heavily Democratic ward picked the 68-year-old Mr. Barry by a wide margin over incumbent council member Sandy Allen in the September primary.

Mr. Barry today faces Republican nominee Cardell Shelton, 74, whose political experience includes a stint as an advisory neighborhood commissioner.

Maryland voters will decide whether to return U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a Democrat, for a fourth term or replace her with political upstart E.J. Pipkin, a Republican currently in his first term as a state senator from the Eastern Shore.

Miss Mikulski, 68, is considered the race’s front-runner, despite an aggressive media campaign by Mr. Pipkin, 48, a self-made Wall Street millionaire with blue-collar roots. Miss Mikulski’s commanding lead is not surprising with Democrats outnumbering Republicans 2-to-1 in the state.

In Maryland’s 8th Congressional District, Rep. Chris Van Hollen is up against Republican challenger Chuck Floyd, 54, a retired military officer.

The contest has been colored by Mr. Van Hollen’s accusations that his opponent stooped to “sleazy politics” in buying Internet domains based on Mr. Van Hollen’s name, then using them to attack his rival.

Meanwhile, Mr. Floyd says Mr. Van Hollen, 45, has done nothing in the two years he’s been on Capitol Hill.

In Northern Virginia, U.S. Rep. James P. Moran, a Democrat, faces Republican challenger Lisa Marie Cheney, 39.

Mrs. Cheney says Mr. Moran, 59, should be ousted from office because he has embarrassed the district with his behavior, including comments last year about the Jewish community and the war in Iraq.

Mr. Moran says his votes are in line with his constituents in the heavily Democratic district, which includes Arlington County, the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church and parts of Fairfax County.

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