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Parties Reach Out to Register Someone


THOUSAND OAKS — Republicans, Democrats and other political activists plan to hit dozens of malls, grocery stores and neighborhoods throughout Ventura County this weekend to register as many new voters as possible by the Tuesday deadline.

In what some view as the closest presidential race in decades, between Democratic Vice President Al Gore and Republican Texas Gov. George W. Bush, every vote on Nov. 7 will count, said enthusiasts from both camps.

"The people I run into, it seems 50-50," said Helen Moss, a Republican volunteer and Bush supporter in Camarillo, who was preparing to sign up additional voters this weekend. Nationally, a CNN/Time magazine poll had Bush ahead by 2 percentage points Friday; Gore was ahead by 5 points in a Reuters/MSNBC poll a day earlier.

Although Republicans edge Democrats in Ventura County, 42% to 39% among 382,883 voters registered, President Clinton and Gov. Gray Davis prevailed. Also, 13% of local voters are registered with no party affiliation.

Meanwhile, at the Latino advocacy group El Concilio, volunteers planned a final push in the next four days to sign up as many voters as they can find, particularly in Oxnard and Santa Paula.

In Santa Paula, where allegations of Latino underrepresentation in elections have forced the city into court against the U.S. Department of Justice, advocates wonder whether simply registering more Latino voters will result in more Latino-favored members being added to the City Council. One Latina now sits on the five-member panel. This fall, two Latinos are among four candidates vying for two available council seats.

Volunteers have picked up hundreds of blank voter registration forms in recent days, according to the county's elections office.

Democratic Central Committee Chairman Hank Lacayo said his organizers were aiming to sign up 2,000 more voters over the weekend.

Throughout most of the campaign season, voter registration efforts are concentrated on weekends, but in this final stretch, volunteers went out Friday, signing up 50 voters here, 10 there, hoping it would all add up. Many planned to continue their efforts through Monday, leaving Tuesday open to turn over the new registrations to the county elections division.

In Ventura, Democrat Buzz Buzzelli brought his motorcycle to a stop next to a supermarket and filled out a registration form just in case. He said he has voted before, but hadn't received any election materials at his Camarillo home, and thought he ought to register again just in case he had been dropped from the rolls.

Election officials said once voters are registered in the county, they aren't typically dropped. But if voters fail to cast a ballot for four years, they go from "active" to "inactive" status, meaning they are dropped from election materials mailing lists. Also, voters who move within the county must update the addresses kept on file with the county elections division.

Buzzelli, editor of Ventura-based American Rider magazine, said he was looking forward to receiving a sample ballot so he could begin studying up on the local races. He said he hasn't made his choice for president, but isn't thrilled with either major party option.

"Right now Bush is easier to dislike than Gore," he said. Despite his ambivalence, Buzzelli said he is looking forward to voting.

In Thousand Oaks, Republican Marcella Harding greeted shoppers from her table set up by a coffee shop on the first floor of The Oaks mall. She was happy to register anyone, regardless of political affiliation. But her table was decorated with Bush-Cheney buttons and posters.

The display caught the eye of Sue Fieweger, 42, a Moroccan immigrant who has been a U.S. citizen for only three weeks and is eligible to vote for the first time.

"I'd wanted to register, but I didn't know where to go," said Fieweger, who sells clothing at a store in the mall and saw the table on her way to get a frozen coffee drink during a break. It just so happens that Fieweger is a hard-core fan of Bush; all the more reason to sign up at this table.

"It was perfect," she said. "It's good for everyone who can vote to vote."


Times staff writer Matt Surman contributed to this story.

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