Voter Registration Deadlines Loom

Would-be voters in the 2012 general election have less than two weeks to register.

The deadline is Oct. 16 at 9 p.m. in Maryland and Oct. 19 at 9 p.m. in D.C.

Those who have had a change of address, are first time voters or are ex-felons with no outstanding legal obligations are affected.

They are just a few examples of those who need to make sure their registration documentation has been cleared in time to cast a ballot on Nov. 6.

Community leaders and organizations, along with officials of every level of government are doing all they can to make sure that voters know the deadlines, when and where to vote, and what issues are being addressed.

“There are seven ballot questions that people will have to vote for,” said state Sen. Cathy Pugh (D- Md.). “People should read them very carefully. Oftentimes people go to the polls, skip over the questions, go right to voting for a candidate, and then leave the booth, but these questions on the ballot this year are very important.”

On Nov. 6 Marylanders will be making a choice on a wide range of topics from approval of same-sex unions to the place of gambling in the Maryland, making involvement from every eligible voter a must.

According to information released by the Baltimore Board of Elections, there are roughly 324,344 registered voters in the city. Only 45, 590 of them cast a ballot in the primary election for congressional seats.

Judging from the low turnout, less than 15 percent for the primary election, Pugh said when it comes to voter apathy, she believes “people don’t see the significance of their vote,” or get discouraged by negative feelings about politicians.

In a campaign to get maximum participation during the general election’s early voting period of Oct. 27 through Nov. 1, Pugh said that state senators are working hand-in-hand with clergy to get out the vote.

On Oct. 28 all pastors are being asked to take their congregations to the voting booth at some point on Sunday.

There will be four voting places available to the Baltimore’s registered voters. These locations, which include Edmondson Westside High School and The League for People with Disabilities, will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on everyday during the designated time period except Sunday, when voting will begin at noon and last until 6 p.m.

On a mission to inform every American in all 50 states about registration and the upcoming election, the NAACP has taken to the phone lines, the Internet, and the sidewalk pavement of cities nationwide.

“For us, canvassing has been one of the most successful pieces for us because it’s face to face interaction,” said Jessica Pierce, national training director for field membership with the NAACP. “We have folks that are going door to door making sure people are registered and this is not about who people are voting for- this is non-partisan.”

The NAACP recently teamed up with the producers of the Green Festival in Washington D.C. the last weekend in September to make sure that attendees could take care of their civic duties while discussing green jobs, businesses, and energy.

Ward 6 leads the District of Columbia in registered voters, according to statistics released by the D.C. Board of Election and Ethics.

Of the 465, 971 registered voters, 67,350 of them belong to this section, with more residents registering at the Department of Motor Vehicle office than any other registration location. These efforts, coupled by the guerrilla-style tactics of community and national organizations, have helped to increase the total numbers of registered voters.

“If we find you anywhere from the supermarket to a concert or church we’re going to make sure you’re registered to vote,” said Pierce, citing the range of locations for NAACP registration activities.

Disabled Baltimoreans, senior citizens, and students voting from another state, also have the option of absentee voting.

Late applications for absentee voting can be picked up starting Oct. 31 and must be returned on Election Day in person before polls close, or by mail before Nov. 14. If returning by mail, the ballot must have been postmarked before Election Day.

“This is an extremely important election, as all presidential elections are, this next president will likely appoint two members of the Supreme Court,” said Dr. Marvin Cheatham, voting specialist.

Cheatham said that one segment of eligible voters, those who have served time in prison, could stand to have a significant impact on the election- if an effort to educate them on voting rights increases both on a local and state level.

“We have not had great success in reaching out to former felons that have completed their court-ordered sentence and getting them to understand that they have the right to register to vote,” said Cheatham.

“The information has either not gotten to them, or has not been explained completely enough,” he told the AFRO, adding that 40,000 Marylanders are eligible voters- not just ex-felons.

In order to spread awareness about registration and early voting, Radio One stations and community organizations have decided to host registration drives located at the 14 MTA stops along the city subway system on Oct. 16.

The registration will take place at Mondawmin Mall and has been going on for every presidential election for the last 24 years.

Cheatham said that in the 2008 election the subways alone registered 3,000 voters.

This is just one of the many innovative tactics organizations are using to get as many eligible voters registered and in the booth.

For Project Vote, a national non-partisan nonprofit that focuses on voter education and mobilization, that task means registering as many as possible and having a fast acting network of informed voting specialists and lawyers available to voters on election day.

With a toll free number that is free of charge to dial, untold amounts of resources become available to any citizen of voting age.

"We cannot stress early voting enough," said Sarah Massey, media director for Project Vote. “It’s a popular election, voting early will have hours that work better for you and it lessens the chance of long lines."

Early voting in Washington, D.C. will begin Oct. 22 and last until Nov. 5.
While at the polls, if voters have any questions they can call in to 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

Massey said this is an important tool for the 51 million Americans not registered.
Callers in any state can get up to date voting information, such as what documents are or aren't required in order to vote. If a voter needs help identifying the location of their designated voting place, which is determined by address, they can call the number and access the information instantly.

If there's any group of the American population that should have already taken the correct steps to vote in the general election, Dr. Max Hilaire, chairman of the Morgan State University political science department, believes that segment should be the country's students of voting age.

"Students should look at the positions of the two candidates on education, access to education, affordability, and the continuance of federal assistance for students," Hilaire told the AFRO.

Hilaire said that accessibility and funding for college are key points that college students need to consider when looking at the man who will lead the country through the next four years.

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Voter Registration Deadlines Loom


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