Area county clerks, political activists have register hundreds

Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Today is the last day for Missouri residents to register to vote in the Nov. 2 general election.

Judging by the constant traffic reported at the county clerks' offices in the region, voter turnout should be as heavy as ever this year.

"It has been very steady," said Cape Girardeau County election supervisor Patti Schlosser about the number of people coming by the Jackson county clerk's office to register to vote. "You can't do anything else, you just work on voter registration."

The number of people coming into the office to register to vote usually picks up during a presidential election year, said Cape Girardeau County voter registration clerk Sherri Lomedico. She said this year's number is typical.

Cape Girardeau County has seen 1,105 newly registered voters within the last month, Schlosser said.

"The offices in Jackson and Cape have been swamped," said voter registration clerk Carol Unnerstall, who works out of the Cape Girardeau county clerk's office.

In Scott County, about 975 have registered to vote since the primary election Aug. 4.

Perry County has seen around 200 newly registered voters within the last 30 days, County Clerk Randy Taylor said.

"We do have an above-average turnout this year," Taylor said. "But it's always busy in presidential election years."

Since the Aug. 4 primary election, Bollinger County has had 205 newly registered voters.

But not everyone wants to take the time to register at county clerks' offices, so political activists come to them.

The county Democratic and Republican central committees have been registering people to vote at community events like the SEMO District Fair, Jackson Homecomers and other fairs, festivals and banquets.

At the SEMO District Fair, the Cape Girardeau County Republican Central Committee registered an estimated 200 people to vote. Candidate material and stickers were popular.

"That was a phenomenal success," committee chairman Fritz Sander said. "You didn't have to go out and give people things, they were asking for them as fast as we could get them."

Including the fair, the Republican committee has registered 340 people to vote, said committee member and Cape Girardeau County Collector Diane Diebold.

Two weeks ago, the Scott County Republican Central Committee was out in force at the Sikeston Cotton Carnival, where they registered at least 52 voters.

The Cape Girardeau County Democratic Central Committee has also been busy with voter registration efforts.

"We've enjoyed the problem of running out of voter registration forms," committee chairman Tom Neumeyer said. "We've had a great response."

Neumeyer said at this time the committee does not have definite count of the number of voters it has registered.

The Rev. Robert Towner of the Christ Episcopal Church in Cape Girardeau brought together some members of his congregation and registered voters at the Save-A-Lot store over four Saturdays in early September. Towner said he and his assistants registered about 80 voters.

"I felt that it was really good that we got out there," Towner said. "I started out being involved in the civil rights movement, and all you have to do is look at that to see how important it was to register people to vote."

The SEMO Coalition for Peace and Justice, in working with Democratic public administrator candidate Deborah McBride, has probably registered close to 800 people, said coalition member and Southeast Missouri State University professor Robert Pollack. While a lot of the group's voter registration has been from door-to-door efforts, it has also registered voters at to the Salvation Army and Fred's store in Cape Girardeau.

McBride's voter registration efforts started when she was running in the primary campaign.

"It just trickled down to the coalition," she said. "We decided we could cover more ground if we worked together."

McBride and the coalition have focused on registering voters in the southern part of Cape Girardeau.

"It's a very strong part of the community that has not gotten out to vote," McBride said.

Voter registration drives have also been conducted on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University.

Last week, College Republicans and Democrats, as well as some members of the county political committees, registered people to vote at the Pi Sigma Alpha Political Science Carnival.

The university's College Republicans and College Democrats have also been holding other voter registration drives around campus since school began.

College Democrat faculty adviser and political science professor Dr. Rick Althaus said one member has managed to register almost 100 voters.

With the deadline to register voters about to expire, local political groups now face new challenges before the election.

"Getting people registered is one-fourth the battle," Neumeyer said. "The rest is getting them to the polls."

Democratic and Republican committee volunteers will be stepping up their attempts to get local residents to the polls through phone banks and door-to-door visits.

"Right now, the priority is providing education materials," Sander said. "We're trying to motivate people to be involved, and hope it will result in getting more people to the polls."

According to Scott County Republican Central Committee chairwoman Barb Webb, a lot of Republicans in the county are already motivated.

Webb points to the success of President Bush's Sept. 6 visit to Poplar Bluff, Mo.

"It just put the fire in everyone," Webb said.

Sander said the Cape Girardeau Republican Committee gave away about 10,000 tickets for the Poplar Bluff visit.

"President Bush is very popular here," Sander said. "This is Bush country."

Missouri Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Christine Glunz contends many Missouri voters are ready for a change.

According to Glunz, the state DNC has put together its most aggressive campaign program ever through its 23 field offices, one of which is in Cape Girardeau.

"It's changing minds on a local level that I think really matters," Glunz said. "I think it makes a huge difference and that we'll see, closer to the end of the month, that the margin of undecided voters will tighten."

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