The registrars' view
Jackie Harris: Albemarle County Registrar
Harris is seeing an influx of registrations, but not any more than she expects during a presidential election. "This seems about right," she says.
"Every presidential election brings out someone 70 years old who's never voted before and is inspired to vote," Albemarle's registrar says.
Harris has noted the proliferation of voter drives, especially among churches.
"An individual citizen can distribute voter applications all day long," she says, but once someone starts collecting dates of birth and Social Security numbers, the forms have to be returned to the registrar's office within 15 days. "And you can't look through them and pull out all the Republicans," she warns.
Actually, that would be hard to do anyway, because as Harris notes, "We do not register by political parties in Virginia."
You don't have to show an ID to register to vote in this state, although identification is required at the polls. The registrar's office sends out a voter card as confirmation of registration– in case you're worried whether the person at the card table actually turned in your registration.
Harris is seeing a push by the military to make sure its members get to vote. "The forms are coming in from enlisted individuals registering for the first time or absentee ballots," she says. "I'm seeing more of those things than before, especially this early."
August brought Albemarle 1,200 new voters. By the election, Harris expects to have over 57,000 registered voters, in a county that boasts 71 percent voter turnout in the 2000 election.
Here's the thing that breaks Harris' heart. "After October 4, the worst thing for us is to have to tell someone they're not qualified to vote in the presidential election."
Sheri Iachetta: Charlottesville Registrar
In early September, Sheri Iachetta is hard to catch up with. That's because she's out registering voters, and UVA students back in town create a whole new pool of prospects.
She definitely is seeing more people clamoring to register and do registration drives, and she thinks that's "really cool."
For instance, "Doctors' offices are wanting forms in their offices," notes Iachetta. "That's never happened before."
One indicator of increased eagerness to vote is the number of absentee ballot applications. On September 2, Iachetta had processed 250. "Four years ago, we had 168. You can see the difference. We're just slammed."
Another early September phenomenon: "People come in, frantic they've missed the deadline," says Iachetta, "and it's a month away."
At the DMV, site of so-called "motor-voters," which usually notches between 600 and 800 registrations a month, there were over 1,200 in August.
Iachetta has been involved with the Voter Education, Registration, and Mobilization coalition since its inception. As registrar, she can't work on the mobilization part, but she does plan to devote October to educating voters with demonstrations on how to use the voting machines.
"If you have 14,000 registered voters, the most that ever used them is 6,000– that's a big chunk," she says.
In 2000, 75 percent of Charlottesville's registered voters turned out at the polls. "We're much higher than nationally," says Iachetta. This year, Charlottesville could go even higher.
PHOTOS BY LINCOLN ROSS BARBOUR