Local News

Voter Registration Drives Paying Off

Posted October 7, 2004 8:00 a.m. EDT

— The state reported a one-year registration tally of 473,138 new voters Monday, the most recent figure.

The State Board of Elections expects an additional 100,000 new voters by the registration deadline. If that number holds, the state would have more than 5.4 million voters.

"It's simply amazing," said Gary Bartlett, the state elections director.

New voters have been signed up in registration drives by interest groups and political parties, all driven by a close presidential election in which party loyalists want to be sure their supporters aren't sitting out this election.

"The undecideds, it's a small number," said Ron Eckstein, spokesman for the state Democratic Party. "The way you win is getting your people to the polls. Those names are gold to us."

The Democrats say they've signed up more 20,000 volunteers and have opened nine regional offices across the state.

State Republican leaders say they, too, want every vote they can get.

"I'm not going to talk strategy, but it's just common sense. We're going to go after votes," said Jonathan Felts, head of the state's Bush-Cheney campaign.

State records show that the Republicans have boosted their numbers by 5.7 percent since January, Democrats are up 3.9 percent and Libertarian increased 12.1 percent. Unaffiliated voters are up 8.5 percent.

North Carolina doesn't restrict who can register voters and anyone can get registration forms from a board of elections office and sign up voters.

The surge in activity has brought opportunists and accusations of irregularities. Last month, a special interest group called residents to warn them they weren't registered to vote, although many actually were.

State election officials are investigating another group that turned in about two dozen forms with false information. And this month, voters complained about a Web site charging $10 for registration forms, which Bartlett said was slimy but legal.

There also have been several calls a day from former felons wanting to reregister to vote, said Don Wright, the state board's attorney. Former felons can vote as long as they have completed their sentences and parole.

The activity is just an indication of what's at stake, Bartlett said, adding "People are trying to get votes anywhere they can."