With time winding down to the Nov. 2 General Election, officials at the District of Columbia’s Board of Elections and Ethics have been encouraging residents to take advantage of the early voting sites that will be open through this weekend.

BOEE spokeswoman Alysoun McLaughlin said the agency has been seeing a much lighter turnout than in the primary elections, and that with five early voting sites open until Oct. 30, flocking to the polls now rather than later would make things easier for poll workers come Election Day. “By and large we’ve seen a little bit more than half the number of folks showing up at each one of the early voting sites than during the primary,” McLaughlin said.

This year marks the first time Washingtonians have been able to show up and cast ballots early. It has also been the first time residents could register to vote at the polls.

While McLaughlin said she couldn’t attribute the lower turnout to anything in particular—“Besides,” she said, “We have no previous experience on which to gauge things.”—she noted it’s been clear that the District campaigns have not been driving turnout for early voting like they did during the primary elections.

“We don’t know whether this represents voters who would have normally voted on Election Day and only voted at an early voting site because there were organized efforts to get them to the polls during the primary or whether this is a reflection of lower turnout overall,” McLaughlin told the AFRO.

McLaughlin also said poll workers have adapted to the changes (minus glitches) in the voting system which resulted in the smooth operation of both early voting and regular balloting processes in September. She said she would continue encouraging voters to turnout early.

Isaac Wood, a political analyst at the University of Virginia, said he believes the main factor in the slowdown in D.C. voting is the country being in the midst of midterm elections that are occurring during a bad economic time.
“So people are not as enthusiastic as they are in a presidential election – or as they might be if things were going better,” said Wood.

Meanwhile, first lady Michelle Obama has been echoing McLaughlin’s sentiments, encouraging people to go to the polls ahead of time. Obama, who this week will wrap up campaigning for the Democrats’ midterm elections, said during an Oct. 13 interview on the “Tom Joyner Morning Show” that early voting is critical. “Because you don’t want to wait until the last minute. People are busy. There’s no telling what will happen on Election Day,” she said. “It could be weather. You could be sick…you name it. Anything could happen. But early voting is something you can do at your convenience. It starts now.”

Poll hours on Election Day are from 7a.m.-8 p.m. and early voting locations are:

One Judiciary Square
441 4th St. N.W.
8:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. through Saturday, Oct. 30
8:30 a.m. – 4:45 p.m., Monday, Nov. 1

Remote Voting Locations, all of which will be open from 8:30 a.m.- 7p.m. and are closed on Sundays:
Chevy Chase Community Center
5601 Connecticut Ave, N.W.
Saturday, Oct. 30
Hine Junior High School
335 8th St., S.E.
Through Saturday Oct. 30

Southeast Tennis and Learning Center
Round Room
701 Mississippi Ave, S.E.
Through Saturday, Oct. 30

Turkey Thicket Recreation Center
1100 Michigan Ave., N.E.
Through Saturday, Oct. 30