Education

D.C. Joins Nation in Early Voting Surge

WASHINGTON – Holly Gerberich, owner of a Washington advertising agency, jetted into the voting booth early at Malcolm X Elementary School in Southeast. The founder of Gerberich Growth Strategies said she wanted to cast her vote and refused to let anything get in the way.

“I came to vote early for convenience,” she said. “I’ll be traveling for work right up until the [eve of] Election Day and I just don’t feel like dealing with all of that.”

Gerberich joins thousands of Washington-area residents and millions of voters across the nation voting early. Election officials say about 23 million Americans have already cast their votes in the presidential election. As of Tuesday, Nov. 1, more than 58,000 Washington residents had cast their ballots, with the largest turnout, more than 18,000 voters, at the One Judiciary Square polling site in Northwest.

At the Sherwood Recreation Center, the Ward 6 polling station near H Street, 3,421 people have already voted including parents whose children are enrolled in day programs at the Center.

“They’re still coming, but it was mostly busy on Friday,” poll worker Shawanda Rosette said, referring to the first day that the polls opened in the neighborhood for early voting.

“A lot of people who work by Judiciary tend to go there. I guess it just has to do with convenience,” she said.

Over in Ward 8 at Malcolm X Elementary, only 2,188 people had made their way to the polls by Tuesday.

“I came to vote early to avoid traffic,” Scott Kendrick said. “That’s it.  I doubt there’s anything that could happen between now and Election Day that would make me change my mind.”

While voter registration totals have declined, early voter turnout has been high at most poll sites, election officials said.

“In certain parts of the city there are better turnouts,” poll worker team captain Adrienne Jackson said.  “Statistics say that there are about 1,000 non-African-American people coming to the district per week.”

James Cobb, a poll worker, said he feels that unfortunately the lowest voter turnout is in low-income communities.

“I think lack of education is a big problem with voters,” Cobb said. “I find that more uneducated people have a bigger problem with performing their civic duty.”

Columbia Heights Community Center, with over 6,000 votes cast, remains one of the communities with the highest number of early voters, so far.

Columbia Heights Community Center polling coordinator Tony Bouillion said he believes his community’s voting numbers have risen because of the makeup of the neighborhood.

“You can vote citywide,” Bouillion said. “There are a lot of people that pass through Columbia Heights. So, I think that’s why a lot of people come here.”

For some, it’s the convenience of the short lines and getting voting out the way that influence them to vote early. Polling places also offer same day registration, adding to the convenience of going out to vote early.

The District of Columbia Board of Elections has a section on its website called The Queue where voters can check the wait times at each polling location – most have a wait time of five minutes or less, beating the much longer lines that have become typical on Election Day.

Tamara Robinson, public affairs and voter outreach specialist at the District of Columbia Board of Elections, sees The Queue as an asset to voters.

“We’re glad that it’s helpful in terms of helping [voters] plan their day and make it more convenient for them,” Robinson said.

Other voters say that early voting is convenient for them because they don’t have the time to vote on Election Day or they won’t be in town.

Lewis Yelin, a lawyer with the U.S. Department of Justice, said that he voted early so that he’d have time to prepare for an argument the day after the elections.

Felicia Howard, a teacher at the University of the District of Columbia, said she wanted to avoid the long lines on Election Day.

“I didn’t have anything to do, so why not?” she said. “I don’t necessarily believe that my vote counts, but I just think of the people who lost their lives so I can have that privilege,” Howard said.

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Bria Horsley and Victoria Jones

Howard University News Service

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