'09 voter registrations far behind '08

By Andy Jenks - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Time is running out to register to vote in the next big election. If you want to vote for Virginia's next governor, then you have to register by Monday, October 5. But one indicator appears to show that enthusiasm this year is way down.

One year ago, the state Board of Elections appeared to be overflowing with new applications. This year things are, quite obviously, different.

"Relaxing, I guess. Last year, it was a lot of excitement," said Garry Ellis of the state Board of Elections.

With only the governor's race getting major attention, new voters may be missing the fact that there are just 10 more days before the deadline to register. Compare that to 2008, when Virginia signed up more than 500,000 new voters to elect a president, and people couldn't get their hands on applications fast enough.

"This year, nowhere near that. Nothing to the magnitude of what we saw last year," Ellis said.

While the decrease in the number of new registrations is barely a surprise in a non-presidential  year, its impact on who becomes the next governor is a bit more difficult to predict.

"The balance between the two parties is pretty even. And so Democrat or Republican can win statewide," said Dan Palazzolo, a professor at the University of Richmond.

The question this time, won't be about getting new voters registered. As in any close race, political observers believe it's about getting those voters to the polls.

"It doesn't really matter that more people aren't registering, because the voter base is so large right  now, both parties need to focus primarily on getting out their voters," Palazzolo said.

This November, the two campaigns must overcome the usual post-presidential drop in voter participation, reminding people that Virginia has just one of two gubernatorial elections in the country.

"This year, while it's not as much excitement, there is some buzz," Ellis said.

The registration deadline is Monday, October 5. Anyone who turned 18 or who recently moved would have to fill out a form. Among the places you can find them: the post office, or the DMV.

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