Mazi Holland, the Ward 1 events coordinator for the Obama For America campaign, has some advice for people in her district: vote early.

“We are encouraging seniors to vote early or by absentee ballot because many of them have challenges getting to the polls,” she said.

Ward 4 resident, Lozen Craft, has already decided she’ll be casting her vote early. “I plan to go to Lafayette, La., during election time,” she said. “This way, I won’t forget to participate in something as important as the presidential race.”

Washington D.C. is expected to be a stronghold for Obama, as it has been in recent history for Democrats. There are 342,087 registered Democrats in the District, compared to 30, 143 Republicans. There are 80,076 Independents and 4,306 Statehood Green Party members. About 1,400 voters list themselves as “other,” according to D.C. voter registration records.

In the District, registered voters will begin voting 15 days before Election Day, Nov. 6. Starting Oct. 22, D.C. voters will be able to cast their ballot at the D.C. Board of Elections headquarters, located at 441 4th St. NW. From Oct. 27 through Nov 3, there will be eight locations throughout the District where voters can cast their ballots.

Early voting has already started across the country in one of the most internationally watched presidential races in American history.

On Sept. 20, Virginia, Idaho and South Dakota began early voting. Eight states began absentee voting including Arkansas, Idaho, Maryland, Minnesota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and West Virginia. Twelve other states will begin on Sept. 29, including Delaware, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Vermont.

Exit polls show President Barack Obama, the Democratic incumbent, with a slight lead. Knowing how Democrats have traditionally carried the District in past elections, many D.C. Democrats plan to cast early so that they can hit the campaign trail to help get the vote out in other states and to ensure the elderly are widely represented.

This year, there is major concern over how restrictions placed on voters—including who can vote—will affect the outcome of the election. In March, the Sentencing Project circulated a publication that discussed the disenfranchisement of more than 5 million Americans who have felony records.

But while some states have passed controversial laws to suppress the vote—requiring government-issued identification, proof of citizenship, etc.—Washington D.C. has proven to be welcoming to all of its citizens who want to vote.

The District allows patients who are hospitalized at mental health institutions to vote, as long as they are considered competent. Election representatives will travel to the institutions, pass out applications to those interested in voting, register new voters and even return within a few weeks to allow the patients to participate in the voting process.

Leo Alexander, a Washington D.C. businessman, said he is planning to vote the traditional way.

“I don’t need the convenience of early voting,” he said. “I plan to take my children to the polls on Election Day as part of a family tradition and watch the returns on television.”

Valencia Mohammed

Special to the AFRO