- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Virginia has had a sizable increase in registered voters this year, elections officials said yesterday as volunteers held a voter-registration effort at Metro and bus stops in Northern Virginia.

The deadline to register for the Nov. 2 presidential election is Monday.

Barbara Cockrell, assistant secretary of the Virginia State Board of Elections, said the final count of registered voters will be ready next month. As of Sept. 1, the state had 4.38 million registered voters. The state’s population is 7.4 million.

The number of registered voters has increased by 43,536 since July 1.

“That’s a pretty significant number,” Miss Cockrell said.

On Sept. 1, 2000, there were 3.99 million registered voters and that number has steadily increased since the November 2000 election.Virginia has already handed out all of the 500,000 voter-registration forms it ordered in July and officials have had to print two additional batches of 250,000 forms to accommodate requests.

Virginia Votes, a group formed to register voters, hosted the nonpartisan voter-registration drive yesterday. It is one of several groups trying to increase the number of voters in the traditionally Republican state.

Wes Weidemann, a John Kerry supporter who founded the group, said registration efforts will continue through Sunday at apartment buildings and shopping centers.

“People are grateful,” he said from the Court House Metro stop in Arlington yesterday. “There’s a lot going on in the country and the direction for quite a few years will be determined in November, and I think everyone should participate in making that decision. Everyone is given the opportunity to vote, and not everyone does.”

Mr. Weidemann’s goal is to contact 8,000 people by Monday and 100,000 by Election Day. Voters do not need to declare a party on Virginia’s registration forms, and he said his group gives the form to anyone who asks for them. His group also offers to send in the forms and provides envelopes if people want to send the form later.

His group chose to target people at Metro stops in Northern Virginia because residents there are registered at a lower percentage than the rest of the state and because many of them take Metro.

Nationally, new voters are registering in significantly higher numbers than four years ago, according to the Associated Press.

The AP reported that Cleveland has seen nearly twice as many new voters registering compared with 2000; Philadelphia is having its biggest boom in new voters in 20 years; and counties are bringing in temporary workers and employees from other agencies to help process the new registration forms. Philadelphia borrowed employees from other city agencies and started working overtime two months earlier than the usual post-Labor Day push.

The AP also reported that clerks have hired extra workers in Colorado, Ohio and West Virginia.

Today is National Youth and Student Voter Registration Day, and there will be nonpartisan registration drives nationwide at campuses, schools and in neighborhoods.

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