Sherwood's Notebook: Have You Voted?

The Nov. 6 election is now less than two weeks away.

The Notebook has already voted.

We cast our ballot on Monday, the first day of early voting in the District.

Hundreds of citizens had done likewise before we arrived at One Judiciary Square, the headquarters of the Board of Elections.

“I wanted it out of the way,” one voter told News4. “I was very enthusiastic this time. That’s why I came down early. I don’t normally vote early. … This time I wanted in.”

Election officials stopped one female voter at the door. She was wearing a Barack Obama baseball cap and an Obama shirt. She also was carrying a colorful Obama shopping bag. She was ready to vote for her president.

The only thing is, electioneering -- and that includes wearing or carrying campaign stuff -- is not allowed inside the polling place.

“So I had to go around there,” she said, pointing to the building, “find a bathroom, turn my shirt inside out and tape a piece of paper over this [Obama insignia.]” She came back to vote and left shortly after, still wearing her shirt inside out.

She went to a lot of trouble to vote. Will you?

Remember 2008: The District began more aggressive early voting after the historic 2008 election, when voters formed long lines to deliver 93 percent of the vote to Obama. There also were problems with voting machines and a shortage of ballots.

“We had a situation where the morning vote on Election Day, the lines extended, you know, blocks and blocks and blocks and blocks,” said Ward 3 D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh. “We’ll see whether the early voting takes some of that pressure off, but we’re ready.”

Cheh previously chaired the committee that oversees elections, and she shepherded a 2009 elections law that made it easier to cast absentee ballots without having to dream up a reason you wanted one. It also allowed early voting at several sites around town as well as at the board’s headquarters.

It’s unclear whether there will be a historic turnout again this year -- and many think it’s unlikely. Mayor Vincent Gray told News4 on Monday that he thinks Obama will easily get 85 percent to 90 percent of the vote in D.C. this time, but that he’ll fall short of his 2008 total.

The mayor said early voting over a two-week period “gives people maximum flexibility to … get out and exercise the precious opportunity we have.” The mayor also said District citizens should vote in large numbers to show that we’re serious about expanding voting rights here.

• Tracking early voting. After Monday’s third and final presidential debate, all that’s left of the 2012 election are the aggressive get-out-the-vote efforts of the campaigns. Early voting plays a different role in several key battleground states like Ohio, Florida and Virginia.

We found a cool website from George Mason University that tries to track early voting without the partisan spin found from campaign or fundraising groups.

The university site is called the “United States Elections Project.” It addresses all sorts of elections issues. Check it out at

As of midday Tuesday, the site showed that 4,850,521 citizens had already voted with early ballots. There’s a state-by-state breakdown, with voting histories that could help you understand how important early voting may be in this close presidential election.

Michael P. McDonald, an associate professor at George Mason, oversees the site.

• A final word. Former Sen. George McGovern died this past week. He is best remembered for his ill-fated 1972 run for president. He carried only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia against incumbent President Richard Nixon. Two years later, of course, Nixon resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal that began with the 1972 break-in.

McGovern’s life has been broadly covered in any number of obituaries, which described the “prairie populist” as the son of a preacher and as a veteran of World War II who saw the folly of Vietnam before the nation did.

But we liked D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s brief news release this week. She praised McGovern for a couple of things.

Norton notes that it was the McGovern-Fraser Commission that changed the rules of party nominations to make the people’s voice louder and more effective. That commission came after the disastrous 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.

But in this current era of partisan rancor, Norton notes that McGovern “is especially remembered for conceiving the Food-for-Peace program and for his leadership on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and on civil rights. At a moment when the parties have become so polarized that they are often dysfunctional, McGovern, an unabashed liberal, will also be remembered as a Senator who was admired by his Democratic and Republican colleagues alike.”

Contact Us