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Register—and vote!

(Published July 15, 2002)

Don't believe the common misperception that race or wealth is the reason that certain parts of town seem to get more favorable or responsive treatment from local elected officials and the city agencies over which they exercise power.

The reason those residents get what seems to be "special attention" - and it very likely is exactly that - is because they traditionally get out to vote in large numbers whenever there's an election. If you don't believe it, just check the public record on voter turnout for those "favored" precincts.

It is no secret that people who want your vote will make their best effort to earn it. That's called politics.

It's also a political reality that neighborhoods where residents fail to exercise their voting rights often get ignored. Politicians concentrate their resources in areas that will give them the greatest return - in this case, votes - for their time and effort. Everybody looks for the biggest bang for their buck.

Less than a month remains for D.C. residents to make sure they are properly registered to vote in the Sept. 10 primary election, in which voters will select the Democratic, Republican and D.C. Statehood Green parties' candidates for many important, local offices. The winners of those primary contests will compete in the Nov. 5 general election.

We urge all readers who are at least 18 years old, the minimum age for eligibility to vote in the District of Columbia, to fill out a voter registration card if they are not already listed on the voter rolls. You must be registered as a member of a political party if you want to vote in that party's primary election.

The deadline to register to vote in the primary is Monday, Aug. 12. Voter registration forms may be picked up at all D.C. public libraries, police and fire stations, and at the Board of Elections and Ethics office at One Judiciary Square, 441 Fourth St. NW. The form also is available online at www.dcboee.org.

Voting is important. Being a registered voter - and getting out on Election Day to cast that vote - empowers D.C. residents.

On Election Day, D.C. voters are equal. Welfare mothers have the same status in the voting booth as corporate CEOs. Each voter gets one vote in every contest. And nobody, for any reason, can ever legally require a voter to disclose how that vote is cast.

Voting is also easy. It requires no special skills. On-the-spot training is available at every polling place on Election Day for voters who think they might not understand exactly how to cast their vote. There is no shame in asking for help, which poll workers are paid to provide in a non-partisan manner to any voter who asks - and many do. If voters make a mistake on their ballot before turning it in, they can request a new ballot to start over. That's legally allowed.

Voters should not be afraid to ask their employers for time off to vote, if necessary. Absentee ballots may be cast by voters who know in advance that they will not be able to get to their neighborhood polling place to vote on Election Day.

Voting is something that every eligible adult in the District of Columbia can do right.

Your vote, and your continued support, mean more to a local politician's future than any wealthy contributor's campaign dollars. Ultimately, it is votes - not dollars - that elect government officials.

Register to vote - and take time out to cast your vote on Election Day. Urge your neighbors to vote, too. Voting really does make a difference.

Copyright 2002, The Common Denominator