Surge in Voter Sign-Ups


More Marylanders -- 67.7 percent of the voting-age population -- have registered to vote Nov. 3 than at any time since the 1984 general election.

And while Republicans have been steadily increasing the number of their registered voters in the past four years, Maryland still has more than twice as many registered Democrats -- 1.5 million -- as registered Republicans (717,703). Moreover, the pace of Democratic registration quickened demonstrably in most Maryland jurisdictions after the two parties' presidential nominating conventions this summer.

These, in a nutshell, are the conclusions that can be drawn from the state election board's preliminary registration data. If the high numbers result in equally high voter participation, Maryland could witness one of the heaviest turnouts since the 1960 presidential duel between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon.

The Nov. 3 election will be particularly interesting in the Baltimore area's suburban counties, where the growing number of registered Republicans had been eroding the traditional voting edge Democrats have enjoyed for decades.

Except for Republican Carroll County, no formerly majority Democratic jurisdiction has gone Republican in registration so far. Nor do they seem to be close to doing so, even though Democratic margins keep getting slimmer.

Anne Arundel County is a good example. In 1988, Democrats still enjoyed an advantage of 40,000 more registered voters over the local GOP. That edge has now been cut to 31,453. A similar pattern is evident in Howard County. In the same time frame, the Democratic advantage in Harford County has narrowed from close to 21,000 to 17,000 voters. Similar trends can be detected in Baltimore County and Howard County, although registered Democrats still significantly outnumber Republicans.

Baltimore City is a peculiar case. The city has lost so many residents that, despite frantic -- and successful -- voter-registration efforts, it has 43,000 fewer Democrats this year than in 1988. Meanwhile, the number of Republicans registered to vote has remained virtually constant. Yet the Democrats retain a lopsided edge of 304,000 voters to the Republicans' 35,000 city voters.

Despite these numbers, the raw data on recent party affiliation in this state may not matter much. What matters is the decision each Maryland voter makes Nov. 3.

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