- The Washington Times - Monday, February 4, 2008

Election officials say there are more that 2.5 million voters in the region registered to vote in the primaries next week, including the race for U.S. president and two tight Maryland congressional contests.

The Feb. 12 election — known as the Potomac Primary — marks the first time that Maryland, Virginia and the District have held their presidential primary on the same day.

Montgomery County’s electronic voting machines, which have created confusion in previous elections, are ready and organized, said elections spokeswoman Marjorie Roher. The county has 238 polls and 553,712 registered voters, second-most in the area.

Democrats and Republicans can vote for candidates in their parties, Miss Roher said, but independents can vote only for school board members.

Like Prince George’s and the District, Montgomery County polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

One of the closest races in Maryland is the Democratic primary for the 4th Congressional District, in which Rep. Albert R. Wynn is again defending his seat against Donna F. Edwards. The district include part of Montgomery County and most of Prince George’s. Mr. Wynn, an eight-term incumbent, narrowly defeated Mrs. Edwards, a Fort Washington lawyer, in the 2006 primary and again faces a strong challenge.

The closest congressional Republican primary in on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where nine-term incumbent Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest is being challenged by state Sens. E.J. Pipkin and Andrew P. Harris.

In the 1st Congressional District race, Mr. Gilchrest is being attacked for voting with only one other House Republican, Rep. Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq. Mr. Pipkin, Eastern Maryland, and Mr. Harris, Baltimore and Harford counties, are the top challengers and also have strongly attacked each other throughout the campaign.

The D.C. ballots have three political parties’ candidates listed: Democratic, Republican and D.C. Statehood Green Party. Voters can vote only for candidates in the party with which they are registered. They may use either paper ballots or “electric touch screens,” said Bill Oldfield, spokesman for the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics.

The District has 142 polls and 374,008 voters, including 277,050 Democrats, 28,235 Republicans and 4,524 Statehood Greens.

Virginia allows registered voters to pick candidates outside of their party. But they can vote in only one primary.

“That means a Democrat can vote for the Republican ticket, but then not for a Democrat,” said Betty Weimer, spokeswoman for Prince William County board of elections.

Fairfax County has 217 voting stations for 638,964 registered voters — the most in the metropolitan area.

Arlington County has 50 polls for the least number of registered voters — 130,642.

Prince William has 70 polls for 196,151 voters. Loudoun County has 63 polls for 162,347 voters.

Virginia polls will be open from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m.

Some 17-year-olds will be permitted to vote in the primaries this year. They should have already registered, proving that their 18th birthdays will arrive before the national presidential and vice presidential election on Nov. 4.

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