- The Washington Times - Monday, October 11, 2004

Maryland has nearly doubled its number of new voters compared with four years ago, and voter rolls are expected to pass the 3 million mark today when the deadline for registration arrives.

The latest statistics compiled by the Maryland State Board of Elections show that 46,362 new voters had registered in August, compared to25,580 during the same period in 2000.

More than half of the month’s new registrants, or 24,718, were Democrats, statistics show.

The state had nearly 2.9 million registered voters at the end of August.

Mary Wagner, voter-registration coordinator for the state elections board, said if numbers from September and October of 2000 are any indication, it is likely that the state will surpass 3 million registered voters this year. In 2000, there were 2.6 million registered voters.

“This has been a dramatic jump,” Ms. Wagner said.

Meanwhile, 9,396 Democrats and 4,233 Republicans were removed from the voter rolls in August in places such as Baltimore city and Baltimore and Prince George’s counties.

Deborah Martinez, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Republican Party, speculated that the removal of the many Democrats indicated local officials were finding bogus registrations.

“We didn’t have any concerted effort to clean the rolls, but it points to the shenanigans that go on on the other side,” she said.

A Democratic spokesman denied that Democrats were padding the voter rolls.

The surge in voter registration corresponds to a national trend sparked by a hotly contested presidential race between President Bush and Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry. Mr. Bush has seen a sizable lead narrow over the last two weeks since the first presidential debate.

In Virginia, voter registration was nearly 4.4 million as of Sept. 1, up from slightly less than 4 million at the same point in 2000, and the September registration period was up by about 10,000 over the same period four years ago.

The D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics reported that 368,477 persons were registered to vote as of Sept. 14, compared with 338,860 in mid-September 2000.

Voter registration ended in Virginia and in the District last week.

Curtis Gans of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate said he expects voter participation to reach or exceed the 58 percent level that it hit in 1992. It was 54 percent in 2000.

The increased pace of registration in Maryland should only intensify if it follows conventional registration patterns. In 2000, voter registration more than tripled from August to October, from 25,580 to 86,603, respectively.

However, it remains to be seen how many new registrants will actually vote, Ms. Wagner said.

“It’ll be interesting to see how the number equates to how they actually get out and vote” she said.

Overall, the increase in registration favors Democrats, though Republicans have gained some ground in suburban counties, such as Anne Arundel, Harford and St. Mary’s.

The state elections board’s breakdown of voters does not include their age, race or sex.

Officials from both parties said they had few concerns about the new electronic voting machines that were used for the first time in the March primaries, when they encountered some problems.

The Maryland elections board has said it wants to fire its administrator, Linda H. Lamone, for her handling of the contractors who set up the voting machines.

However, Democrats have decried this as an attempt by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to put his own appointee in place of Mrs. Lamone. Mrs. Lamone was appointed by Mr. Ehrlich’s Democratic predecessor, Parris N. Glendening.

• Donald Lambro contributed to this report.

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