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IN THE NEWS - Voter Registration Rises in U.S. - 2004-10-09

Broadcast: October 9, 2004

This is Steve Ember with In the News in VOA Special English.

Voter lists are growing as the United States prepares for general elections on November second. Some people think the increase in possible new voters is enough to influence the presidential election. But political experts are not sure which candidate will be helped more, Republican President George W. Bush or Democratic Senator John Kerry.

Americans in a number of states had until this week to sign up to vote. Others have more time to register. Six of the fifty states permit registration on Election Day.

Both major parties and several activist groups have been trying to sign up voters in the battleground states. These are states like Florida and Ohio where the vote is expected to be especially close.

Republicans have led many of their efforts in areas away from cities. Democrats and community groups have worked hard in cities to register minorities and young people, especially students. People under the age of twenty-five have the lowest voting rates.

In some poor and minority areas of Ohio, officials report four times as many new registrations as in the two thousand election. Four years ago, President Bush won Ohio by a narrow victory over Al Gore.

In Pennsylvania, election officials say voter registration in the city of Philadelphia is at the highest level in twenty years. Officials in the states of New Jersey and Georgia also say they expect big increases in voter lists.

Political experts link the interest this year in part to the disputed election in Florida four years ago. Mister Bush won the state by five hundred thirty-seven votes.

But the efforts to sign up and process new voters have led in some cases to accusations of wrongdoing. Investigations are under way in Michigan, Florida and Ohio. On Thursday, the Florida Democratic Party went to court in a dispute with the state over incomplete voter registration papers.

The documents have two places where people had to confirm that they are American citizens. They had to sign a statement. And they had to mark a box. Some people failed to mark the box. A state official told counties that, under the law, they should reject those forms. The Florida Democratic Party disagrees.

All American citizens eighteen and older may vote, although people can lose that right if they are found guilty of a serious crime. Groups that have led voter registration drives this year say they will now work to get people to vote.

How many Americans vote? The Census Bureau says sixty percent of all the adult citizens in the country voted in the two thousand election. But the reason groups want more people to register is because eighty-six percent of those who were signed up to vote in the last election did vote.

In the News, in VOA Special English, was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Steve Ember.