With registration closed for this election, Harford's board of elections counted 63,527 Democrats and 67,459 Republicans on Wednesday, new elections director Kevin Keene said. There are 28,924 voters who are either unaffiliated or belong to recognized third parties.

The total number of active registered voters in Harford is 159,940, which is 10,000 more than the 149,651 registered for the 2008 presidential election.

In 2008, Harford had 64,883 registered Democrats and 62,410 registered Republicans, so while the Republicans have gained more than 5,000 voters in the ensuing four years, the Democrats have lost 1,300. The ranks of the unaffiliated or third party voters have increased by more than 6,000, growing faster than either major party.

Voter turnout in Harford in the 2008 presidential election between Obama and John McCain was 82.7 percent.

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This year, Harford residents also will be voting on seven charter amendments, as well as the same seven ballot questions everyone in the state will vote on.

Among the charter amendments are one to allow former county council members to be employed by county government immediately after leaving office, instead of waiting the current minimum of two years (Question B) and another requiring that a vacancy in the office of county executive be filled by someone of the same political party (Question A).

Also on the Harford ballot is Circuit Court Judge M. Elizabeth Bowen, who is unopposed for continuance in office on a 15-year term.

Question 6

One of the more controversial questions on the Maryland ballot this year is Question 6 that, if passed, would allow gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license.

Havre de Grace City Councilman Joe Smith, who is openly gay and been with his partner for 25 years, said he is "cautiously optimistic" that it will pass. He had not voted as of Thursday, but intended to cast his ballot in favor of Question 6 either today (Friday) or Tuesday.

The final vote probably will be close, he said, but pointed out the question needs only one more than 50 percent of the vote.

"I tell people to make sure you're not the one vote that didn't put us over. Don't take a chance, get out there and vote, that's what I tell people," Smith said. "We won't know until it's over, but I think we've done what we needed to do," he said.

The pro-Question 6 movement has been pretty well-organized, Smith said, doing continuous fundraising, and any misinformation has been countered quickly.

The effort to get Question 6 passed has been a positive approach, Smith said, without trying to attack anyone, or their values or morals.

"We've tried to focus on the benefits, the equality marriage brings," Smith said.

Congressional, Senate races

Incumbent U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin is opposed by Republican Daniel John Bongino, Libertarian Dean Ahmad and independent S. Rob Sobhani.

In the First Congressional District, which includes central and northern Harford County, incumbent Congressman Andy Harris, a Republican, is expected to have little trouble in securing his second term in the House of Representatives.

Though her name will still be on the ballot, Democrat Wendy Rosen dropped out of the race several weeks ago after admitting she had voted in an Florida election while also registered to vote in Maryland. Her withdrawal, however, came after the ballot closed.

Libertarian Muir Wayne Boda's name also appears on the First District ballot. Democrats, meanwhile, have tried to mount a write-in campaign on behalf of John LaFerla, who narrowly lost to Rosen in the primary election.

In the Second Congressional District, which includes southern Harford and parts of Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties and Baltimore City, five-term incumbent Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat, is opposed by Republican Nancy Jacobs, a state senator from Edgewood, who represents Harford and Cecil counties in Annapolis. Libertarian Leo Dymowski is also on the ballot.

Go to http://www.harfordvotes.info/ or http://www.ccgov.org/election_bd for more information on the general election.