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“Madness” registers thousands before deadline

on October 21, 2008



Oct. 21—Twelve dedicated staff. Four extra-long tables. Floodlights. A decked-out AC Transit bus playing “God Bless America” and other patriotic songs. And a whole lot of coffee, hot chocolate and cookies.

That’s what it took for the Alameda County Registrar of Voters’ office to pull off its “Midnight Madness” voter registration drive Monday night, braving the cold from 5 p.m. to midnight to allow as many people as possible to get registered on the last day to do so—more than 3,000 by the end of the night.

“In other words,” said Guy Ashley, spokesman for the county registrar’s office, “it was really busy.”

The League of Women Voters of Oakland is usually the county’s only organization that stays open until midnight to allow people to register to vote. But this was the first time the county registrar’s office opened its doors this late into the night to allow last-minute registration.

Because of the heightened interest in this year’s presidential election—and perhaps because of all the media attention focused on the event—people showed up in droves outside the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse downtown, where workers were stationed.

Ashley said people gave all sorts of reasons why they chose to wait until the last day to register. The most common reason was procrastination. But some people said there were mix-ups with their registrations, and they had only found out at the last minute, while others said they had recently moved and just got notification about having to re-register.

One man showed up at 11:58 p.m. on his bicycle, Ashley said, and asked, out of breath, “Can I still do it?” He was signed up on the spot just in time.

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Meanwhile, the League of Women Voters were stationed in the parking lot of the Safeway store in the Rockridge Shopping Center in North Oakland, catching people as they made their late-night runs for groceries.

Mony Bauer, a past president who was one of the volunteers at the organization’s table, said many of the people the organization encountered were already registered to vote. But there also were surprising numbers of people, she said, who drove up to the Safeway store just to register.

Whatever brought people out to the table, she said, they were engaged in the upcoming election.

When she asked one man whether he had registered to vote, he said, “Yes.” But then he added: “And I want to punch George Bush in the face.”

In all, the organization contributed 85 registration cards to the county’s total count. Ashley said a group from the University of California-Berkeley also handed in about a thousand. (The total count for the entire day was still being tallied.)

With so much success, will the registrar’s office continue the event in elections to come? Probably not, Ashley said. But he said all the hard work was worth it.

The real hard work isn’t quite over, though. The next step for the office is to prepare for the next one of its early voting events, which is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at 1225 Fallon St. in Room G-1.

Then comes Election Day where, as everyone knows, anything can happen.

Got more questions about the upcoming election and what’s on the ballot? Visit the League of Women Voters’ Easy Voter Guide Project here.||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

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