The primary election is coming up for Harford County voters, as around the state, and the opportunity for early voting is only a couple of weeks away.
The county's Board of Elections ended up losing its chance to have two more polling place for early voting, even though several county groups, including the Democratic Central Committee and the League of Women Voters, spent last summer urging more people to register to vote.
A county is required to have 150,000 active registered voters to get more polling locations, but the state Board of Elections disputed Harford's claim in late August to have 151,146 qualifying voters.
According to the state, Harford fell short by just 46 voters, with 149,954 people signed up when the deadline for the 2012 election passed.
Dale Livingston, deputy director for the county board, said not enough voters were found to be active in time for the deadline, which was last summer.
As of Thursday, however, the county had well more than that.
There are now 152,735 total active voters in the county, plus 8,708 voters who are either inactive (but not necessarily ineligible to vote) or pending (newly registered).
"We will more than likely have three early voting sites for 2014," Livingston said. "I am hoping 2,000 people don't leave [the county]."
For the upcoming primary election, which will take place from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on April 3, the county has 61,924 registered Democrats and 65,040 Republicans, Livingston said. March 13 was the deadline for voters to register to vote in the primary.
Republicans and Democrats have generally been neck-and-neck in recent years, with Republicans gaining a slight lead recently.
In August 2010, the county recorded 62,470 Republicans and 62,154 Democrats, the first election in county history when there were more registered Republicans. In general elections, however, Harford's voters have tended to favor GOP candidates.
Wendy Sawyer, chairman of the county's Democratic Central Committee, said she was not happy with the state's decision regarding early voting sites, and the Democrats will be doing more voter registration drives this summer.
"Clearly we were very disappointed as far as the early voting sites," she said. "The whole idea for the early voting was to have greater access for the public."
Sawyer said despite the slip in registered Democrats in Harford, she is excited for the presidential election.
"I am actually kind of looking forward to this election season. I think it will be an eye-opener," she said, adding the Republican Party and many of its presidential and congressional candidates have been attacking women's rights.
"I think a lot of people will change their tune," she said of the voters.
Patrick McGrady, the new chairman of the county's Republican Central Committee, lauded news of the Republican gains and said it fit into three goals the committee hopes to achieve in the next few years.
The committee wants to achieve a 4,000-voter spread between Republicans and Democrats and ultimately elect an all-Republican Harford County Council, he said.
"It's very encouraging," McGrady said of the voter numbers. "In the one-party monopoly we live in, it's very interesting to see the conservative ideas are winning."
McGrady nevertheless said the committee is not trying to create a one-party monopoly in the other direction, with all Republicans.
"What we are looking for is to have a conversation," he said. "I am a Republican because I think the principles of the Republican party are sound ... I think [the registration result] says good things about the future of our county, and hopefully we can convince other counties of the importance of economic freedom going forward."
On the ballot will be candidates for president, Judge of the Circuit Court, U.S. Senator, female and male delegates (and male alternates) to the Democratic National Convention in Congressional District 1 and a Congressional representative (also in District 1).
Harford voters can also cast ballots early from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. from March 24 to March 29, except Sundays, when they can vote from noon to 6 p.m.
The county's lone early voting center has been moved from the Bel Air Library to the McFaul Activity Center at 525 West MacPhail Road, in Bel Air.
"The Bel Air Library was really great, but it was small," Livingston said. "We had one of the highest numbers of early voters in the state, so we really could have used a larger space ... Being able to have a larger facility was something we knew we needed to do."
Livingston said voters at the library had run across a busy intersection, while the campaigners also were pressed for space. She did say the library was extremely accommodating and good to work with.
"It was a very tight situation for everybody, so I think the McFaul Center is going to be able to do us really well," she said. "The [Motor Vehicle Administration] said we can use their lower lot for overflow parking."
Early voting for the general election will take place from Oct. 27 to Nov. 1, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. On Sundays, it will be from noon to 6 p.m.
For more information, go to http://www.harfordvotes.info.