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Tuesday, October 19, 2004 - Page updated at 10:15 A.M.

Last-day registration at Elections Office

By J. Patrick Coolican
Seattle Times staff reporter

KEN LAMBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES
The fifth floor of the King County Administration Building in downtown Seattle is clogged yesterday as people wait to register to vote. It was the last day to register before the Nov. 2 general election, two weeks from today.
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Hundreds of people crowded the King County Elections Office yesterday, the last day they could register to vote, capping the busiest registration season in memory.

The line during midafternoon, which ran down the stairs, seemed to lack a beginning or end, though elections officials said they're confident the 20,000 to 25,000 registrations they still have to process will be finished by Election Day. That total includes about 3,500 absentee voters who haven't yet received ballots but will in two or three days, said Bill Huennekens, superintendent of elections.

Hamid Wooten, a 39-year-old desktop publisher who lives in Bellevue, was registering for the first time yesterday. At one point, he said he held the place of Darcie Vaughan, who was standing behind him in line and had to step out to breastfeed her baby. When she returned, Wooten held the baby so she could rest her weary arms.

"I'm here because of the Florida fiasco. [President] Bush wasn't elected; he was selected," said Wooten, who waited for two hours. He called himself a "fiscal Republican and a social Democrat," who says he still hasn't decided who he'll vote for.

KEN LAMBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Sukhjinder Randhawa, left, and his wife, Sukhwart Kaur, from Renton, wait to register to vote yesterday. The couple, registering for the first time, are natives of India and U.S. citizens since 1996.
By Election Day, King County is expected to have registered at least 140,000 new voters since Jan. 1, a 40 percent increase over 2000. Statewide, at least 330,000 new voters will be registered, according to data compiled from most Washington counties. That reflects nationwide trends, which suggest this election could bring millions of new voters to the polls.

Sukhjinder Randhawa and his wife, Sukhwart Kaur, natives of India and citizens since 1996, also were registering for the first time.

Randhawa, a Renton resident who's been in the United States since 1982, said the economy is the biggest issue for him. He and Kaur wouldn't say who they're voting for.

Many people at the Elections Office said they had mailed in a registration form but worried when they didn't see their names on the voter-registration database or hadn't received a confirmation card.

Huennekens said people might not show up in the system due to the backlog of registrations but added that everyone will be registered.

Matthew Parker, a database engineer from Maple Valley, was among the fretful. His wife, Linda, called him at work yesterday morning to say his name was not on the voter list. At 41, he says he always votes, so even though the line yesterday was a hassle, it was a necessary one.

The Elections Office had 50 to 60 people working yesterday, Huennekens said. They processed 5,843 new registrations over the weekend, he said.

Staff reporter Beth Kaiman contributed to this report. J. Patrick Coolican: 206-464-3315 or jcoolican@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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