After handing over 31,000 voter registration forms to the Maryland Republican Party since April, the head of the state Board of Election Laws thinks enough is enough.
Gene M. Raynor yesterday cut off the flow of forms to the Republicans, citing a cost to the state of $75 per 1,000 and no evidence that the forms are being filled out.
"I don't see any return on them," Raynor complained. "I will go anywhere in the state to register 2,000 people or two people, but this is ridiculous."
But Joyce L. Terhes, who heads the Republican Party and the voter registration drive that's using up the forms at a hefty clip, said she suspects Raynor, an appointee of Gov. William Donald Schaefer, and Democrats in general are nervous about GOP registration gains.
"I think they got concerned [about the forms]," she said yesterday. "They know we're not eating them."
Since April, Republican volunteers working out of the Annapolis party headquarters have been stuffing envelopes, slapping on labels and sending the mail to thousands of people around the state. Using names and addresses purchased from a vendor who compiles lists of new homebuyers and newcomers to the state, Republicans so far have randomly mailed 27,570 forms and welcome letters.
Terhes admits that the letter accompanying the registration form is decidedly pro-Republican and anti-Democrat, but she insists the party is helping overall voter registration by its efforts.
"Yes, I'm trying to build up the Republican Party," she said, "but they have the freedom to register as they want."
Terhes said Republicans "are on a roll" and Democrats, who hold most of the state's highest offices, are worried. Registered Democrats far outnumber Republicans -- 1.3 million to about 620,000 -- but Republicans are catching up. In 1983, Democrats outnumbered Republicans 4 to 1.
Raynor said registration forms are numbered, and he is not aware that any forms bearing the numbers distributed by Republicans have been returned to local election boards.
Scoffing at the charge he and Democrats are trying to hold bacthe registration drive, Raynor said he would deny Democrats the same request if it seemed the forms were being wasted.
Raynor said he decided to stop providing the forms after Terhes told him the mailings were based on random selections.
"That's just foolish," he said.
Raynor's decision has a firm legal basis, according to Elizabeth Nilson, an assistant attorney general assigned to the election board. She said the board has the authority to control distribution of the forms and to review accompanying letters to check for inaccuracies.
Raynor said the Republicans could reprint registration forms at their own expense, but the form would first have to be approved by the board. He said he has agreed to let Terhes discuss the matter before the full board at its next meeting -- which has yet to be scheduled -- to resolve the problem.