Tuesday, October 5, 2004
Voter signups record in Ohio
Last-day registrations reflect intensity
By Cindi Andrews
Enquirer staff writer
Thousands of procrastinators made their way to election offices, libraries and other sites Monday to register their desire to vote, capping a record year for new voter registrations in Ohio.
"It's blowing us away," said Susan Johnson, elections director for Warren County.
She estimated that 2,000 new voter registration requests landed in the Lebanon election office Monday, the last day to register to vote in the Nov. 2 election.
That's on top of almost 15,000 new voter registrations already processed in Warren County this year, making up 12.5 percent of all registered voters there.
The story is the same all over Ohio, according to Carlo LoParo, spokesman for Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell: "Boards of elections across the state are being inundated with voter registration forms, which is great."
Blackwell said the total number of registered voters is already at 7.7 million out of an estimated 8.14 million eligible Ohioans.
That tops the 7.5 million registered in 2000, LoParo said, and sets a record. Cuyahoga County has registered about 133,000 new voters, while Franklin County has registered 93,000.
Hamilton County had logged 64,045 new voters this year as of Saturday, said Diane Goldsmith, registration supervisor. That brings the county total to 551,480 registered voters out of a population of 843,000 adults and children.
Butler County has registered 25,049 new voters, with Clermont County estimating 12,000 new registrations.
Kentucky hasn't updated its voter registration numbers for more than two weeks, but Campbell and Boone counties say they, too, signed up unusually high numbers of new voters this year.
Boone could end up with 64,000 registered voters, compared with 40,000 in the 2000 election, according to County Clerk Marilyn Rouse.
Election officials and others credit both high interest in the close Bush-Kerry race and well-organized voter registration efforts by political groups.
Benita Tillman of Mount Healthy credits Rock the Vote and other youth-focused efforts with getting her 22-year-old son and some of his friends interested in the election.
Tillman, who works for a union-affiliated activist group, visited the Hamilton County Board of Elections on Monday afternoon to drop off voter registration forms filled out by her son and three other young men.
She didn't have to make them register, Tillman said: "This was a very voluntary effort."
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) was one of the biggest collectors of new voters locally. The national group is nonpartisan but focuses on the needs of minority and low-income families.
ACORN collected more than 26,000 new voter registrations in Cincinnati's poorer neighborhoods by going door-to-door and setting up booths at grocery stores and gas stations, according to local organizer Diedre Murch.
The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County's 42 locations also took thousands of new voter registrations, spokeswoman Amy Banister said. The Hyde Park branch alone averaged more than 40 registrations an hour Monday, she said. "It went from about 50 a week to 500 a week and now it's like 500 a day," she said.
It will be close to two weeks before all new registrations are received and processed, according to election officials in several counties. Any forms postmarked Monday will be accepted for several days, and it will take a day or two for agencies such as the library and the Department of Motor Vehicles to turn in all forms they've collected.
In the meantime, state officials and political groups have already moved on to their next job: getting out the vote.
"We've done a great job of registering our citizens, and now we've got to make sure those registered voters actually go to the polls and cast a ballot," LoParo said.
Ten percent or more of Southwest Ohio's registered voters are new to the rolls this year.