New voters registering in abundance
Published: Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 6:21 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 6:21 p.m.
If last week's presidential debate got you fired up to vote but you aren't registered, get in gear, because the books for the Nov. 6 general election close on Tuesday.
Alachua County Elections Supervisor Pam Carpenter said registration has been on the upswing as interest grows in the contest between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
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Carpenter said she also saw an impact from the recent speech by first lady Michelle Obama in Gainesville.
"We had probably between 1,500 and 2,000 new registrations every week for the last several weeks," Carpenter said. "It helps when a famous person comes to town. The voter registration organizations attend those functions and get people registered. We did see an increase in voter registration applications after (Michelle Obama's) appearance."
As of Friday, the total number of registered voters in Alachua County was 161,928 — 79,105 Democrats, 46,177 Republicans and 36,646 in various other parties or having no party affiliation.
People can register at the elections office in the Star Garage building at 111 SE First Ave. next to the Hampton Inn.
Carpenter said the office will be open Monday — the Columbus Day holiday — from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The office will be open those same hours on Tuesday.
Residents who have an application also can slide it into a mail slot in the front door of the elections office. Registration forms are available online at http://elections.alachua.fl.us/index.php?id=4.
Alachua County Democratic Party Chairman Jon Reiskind and Alachua County Republican Party Chairman Stafford Jones both said their parties have had various drives to get people registered this summer and fall.
Reiskind said the Democratic effort has been led by Organizing for America. "That is their only focus until Oct. 9. A lot of us have walked the sidewalks under their aegis," Reiskind said. "They train people very well and are very responsible about getting registrations in, whether they are Democrat or Republicans."
Jones said the local GOP has had a successful voter registration drive that is now winding down. "That is, by and large, the most Republicans we have ever had," Jones said. "We've worked hard on the numbers. To have more than 46,000 Republicans is a really good number for us. We are narrowing the gap."
Early voting will be from Oct. 27 to Nov. 3, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., at the elections office, the Tower Road library and the Millhopper library on Northwest 43rd Street.
Residents who will vote at the polls should be aware their voting location might have changed.
Political boundaries were redrawn this year based on new U.S. Census data. As a result, many voters are in different precincts with new polling places.
Carpenter said her office has taken a number of steps to make the public aware of the changes. However, groups such as the NAACP are concerned some voters will show up at the wrong polling place and then get discouraged from voting when they cannot cast ballots there.
"We have a big turnout for African-Americans during the presidential general election, so we have been sending letters to all of the churches and will be doing some public service announcements," said NAACP President Evelyn Foxx. "We are reminding people to look at their voter cards to find their polling place."