Later this year the Summer Olympic Games will focus much of the sporting world’s attention on Greece. In the U.S., this week — for better or worse — much of the political world’s attention began focusing in earnest on another competition: the campaign for the presidency.
It hardly seems like it can be time again to head for the polls for another national election pitting the Democrats and Republicans and assorted smaller parties — the controversial election in 2000 that sent George W. Bush to the White House for four years instead of Al Gore is still a fresh (and for some, bitter) memory. It’s not often a candidate (Gore) wins the country’s popular vote (give or take a few hanging chads and disgruntled voters) — the actual tally of citizen votes cast by registered voters across the country — but loses the election due to the way the Electoral College system assigns each state’s representative winner-takes-all tally. But such was the outcome, at least once the U.S. Supreme Court had the final say on the various issues and challenges.
With more than eight months before the November 2 election date, the battle has been joined, with the recent launch of partisan TV commercials. Many predict a long, expensive and often nasty campaign in the months ahead as opponents and parties go on the attack.
Some pundits are speculating that the controversy surrounding the 2000 presidential election could drive voters to the polls in greater numbers in 2004 (unless they’re turned off by the expected mudslinging). Both parties will make efforts to be sure like-minded potential supporters are officially registered in time to vote, a process that must be completed several weeks to a month or more in advance of election day, varying by state.
An easy way to get registered for the first time involves the free Adobe Reader. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) Web site provides a downloadable version of its National Mail Voter Registration Form in PDF, which most states will accept when completed and signed, and sent via mail. The FEC site describes both general and state-specific instructions for completing, printing and returning the form, as well as listing a few states that are exceptions.
Another citizen-minded organization that’s very involved in voter registration and other election-related activities is the League of Women Voters (LWV). Among its free-to-download resources are PDF-based excerpts from its recently updated ‘Navigating Election Day: What Every Voter Needs to Know‘ booklet, an independent guide to voting and Election day. Chapter 2 [PDF: 345kb] explains several optional methods of registering.
The League of Woman Voters, by the way, advocates abolishing the Electoral College and instead choosing the president by direct popular vote, a position it took several decades before the 2000 presidential election as a means for creating a truly representative government.
Another idea for motivating people to take a greater interest in politics and to become active voters — reduce the political campaign season to a timeframe similar to the Olympics: two weeks!