Republicans narrowing voter registration gap


A surge in county Republican voter registration after the September primary has given Republicans a big boost in their battle to catch up with long-dominant Democrats.

An overall gain of 1,186 Republican voters between Sept. 26 and Oct. 11 -- the last day to register before the Nov. 8 general election -- represents nearly a third of the total increase in Republican voter rolls since the last state and county elections in "Slowly but surely, Howard County is becoming more Republican," said Allan Kittleman, chairman of the county

Republican Central Committee.

Democrats still maintain a big advantage over Republicans: 49.6 percent of the electorate to 36.4 percent.

But that's down slightly from 1990, when the difference was 51.0 percent to 36.8 percent.

That might appear to be a commanding lead for Democrats.

But Mr. Kittleman said it's exactly where the local Republican Party has wanted to be for decades.

"We knew that if we got down to a level that was close to 1.4 Democrats] to 1 [Republican], we'd basically start winning, and that's what we've been doing," Mr. Kittleman said.

"Because there're so many conservative Democrats, it's basically dead even."

The 1.4-to-1 ratio was achieved by the last general election in 1990, when Republicans surprised the Democrats and defeated a slew of Democratic incumbents.

Those victorious Republicans included County Executive Charles I. Ecker, County Councilman Darrel Drown and state Sen. Christopher J. McCabe and state Dels. Martin G. Madden and John S. Morgan.

While Republicans are narrowing the registration gap between their party and the Democrats, independent voters are the only group with an increasing share of the electorate.

As a combined group, independent voters and those affiliated with other political parties gained since 1990 at the expense of both the Democrats and the Republicans.

Howard's 13,855 independent voters -- plus 992 affiliated with other parties -- now make up 14 percent of the electorate. Four years ago, it was 11.5 percent.

Yesterday, each of the two main parties had its own mathematical spin on the meaning of the voter registration tallies.

Pointing to new registrants, county Democratic Central Committee Chairwoman Carol Fisher said the last-minute Republican gains were "hardly representative" of the overall registration of the seven months right before the primary. During that period, she said, 646 more Democrats registered than Republicans.

Mr. Kittleman and county Republican leaders prefer to look at the latest ratio of Democrats to Republicans, which now stands at 1.363 to 1.

"It's gone down," he said over the telephone, his calculator clicking in the background.

He noted that in 1990, there were 1.387 Democrats for every Republican -- a smidgen of a difference that could carry some political meaning when applied across the county's total registered electorate of 106,389 voters.

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