High-interest campaigns spark voter registration

August 22, 1992|By Douglas Birch | Douglas Birch,Staff Writer Staff writer Sandy Banisky contributed to this article.

A boisterous presidential contest, the canceled crusade of Ross Perot and an abortion question on the Nov. 3 ballot in Maryland have helped fuel voter registrations this summer, political professionals say.

"Yesterday and today the phones have been ringing off the hooks, and more than a normal amount of people have been coming in," Lolita Fales, deputy administrator of the Baltimore Board of Election Supervisors, said yesterday.

The interest was apparently sparked by the Republican National Convention, she said. But she couldn't say whether would-be voters seemed inspired or riled.

"The television coverage seems to stir a lot of activity," Gene M. Raynor, state elections administrator, said yesterday. "We've had calls all day long today." The same thing happened after the Democrats met last month in New York.

Based on the brisk business, Mr. Raynor said he has "great expectations" that about 300,000 new voters will register between Aug. 1 and the Oct. 5 deadline. More than 1 million eligible adults are not yet on the rolls.

And he forecast that the Nov. 3 elections will bring the highest state turnout of registered voters in 20 years, exceeding the 76 percent reached in 1988.

Binki McKenna, a reference librarian at Howard County's central library in Columbia, said in the past month about 50 people stopped by to ask for registration forms, which are handed out at both the reference and fiction desks.

"In the last two to three weeks, we've seen more and more people come in for them," Ms. McKenna said. "It's definitely on the upswing."

Larry Gibson, who is running the Clinton campaign's statewide voter registration effort, said two volunteers registered 146 voters Thursday night at a concert at Hopkins Plaza downtown.

"If we had more volunteers, we could have registered more people," Mr. Gibson said.

Maryland's Republicans have been mailing out 5,000 voter registration forms each month to new homeowners around the state, a party worker said. Mr. Raynor, who tracks all forms his office hands out, said a steady stream of the GOP's forms are being returned.

On both sides of the abortion issue, campaign groups are looking for new voters for the referendum on Maryland's abortion-rights law.

Maura Keefe of Maryland for Choice said the abortion-rights group brings voter-registration forms along with its campaign leaflets to fairs and festivals around the state.

The Vote kNOw Coalition is focusing on college campuses, usually through Christian student groups, said Tom Berriman, a spokesman for the anti-abortion coalition.

"When our volunteers are handing out brochures, they have brochures in their right hand and voter-registration forms in their left hands," Mr. Berriman said.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke plans to launch a campaign to register 25,000 new city voters at a noon rally Tuesday in front of City

Hall. David Willemain, who is directing the effort, said every city agency has been told to devise a plan to register employees and the public.

Registration forms will be available in fire houses, mayor's stations, health clinics and other city offices, he said. Municipal employees will help people fill them out.

Other groups prospecting for new voters include the state AFL-CIO, League of Women Voters and Baltimoreans United In Leadership Development. Baltimore's chapter of the NAACP picked up 3,000 registration forms the week before the GOP convention, Ms. Fales said.

While gathering 64,000 signatures to get Mr. Perot on the ballot in Maryland, volunteers in the Texas billionaire's short-lived presidential campaign also handed out registration forms.

As part of a nationwide effort, the Domino's Pizza chain picked up 2,400 forms July 28 for delivery with its pizzas, Mr. Raynor said. "We tracked all of them, and nothing" came in, he said.

"But maybe they just got started," he said. "Maybe they're

drib-drabbing in."

Why do people need to be cajoled into registering? "Jury duty," Mr. Raynor said. (The names of potential jurors in Maryland are drawn from voter registration lists.) "People call and say, 'Take me off your rolls, I've got a jury notice,' " he said.

People who register and then vote should be allowed to choose not to serve on a jury for up to two years, he proposed.

But so far state lawmakers have shown no interest in his plan.

VOTER REGISTRATION

A5

Democrats dominate, but Republicans make gains:

ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

* July 1990

Democrats: 96,144

Republicans: 63,293

* July 1992

Democrats: 103,741

Republicans: 74,840

CARROLL COUNTY

* July 1990

Democrats: 24,587

Republicans: 25,248

* July 1992

Democrats: 26,264

Republicans: 28,533

BALTIMORE CITY

* July 1990

Democrats: 277,803

Republicans: 29,770

* July 1992

Democrats: 264,604

Republicans: 29,731

BALTIMORE COUNTY

* July 1990

Democrats: 236,935

Republicans: 88,953

* July 1992

Democrats: 240,399

Republicans: 96,894

HARFORD COUNTY

* July 1990

Democrats: 45,081

Republicans: 27,777

* July 1992

Democrats: 47,762

Republicans: 31,822

HOWARD COUNTY

* July 1990

Democrats: 47,213

Republicans: 33,547

* July 1992

Democrats: 49,801

Republicans: 36,680

STATEWIDE

* July 1990

Democrats: 1,317,277

Republican: 600,688

* July 1992

Democrats: 1,346,443 (increase of 29,166 or 2.2%)

Republicans: 653,698 (increase of 53,010 or 8.8%)

HOW TO REGISTER

To register, you must be 18 on or before the Nov. 3 general election, be a U.S. citizen and not be under court guardianship.

The statewide deadline for registering or switching party affiliations is 9 p.m., Monday Oct. 5.

Voters can register as a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or decline to list an affiliation. No other parties are officially recognized.

Registration forms can be obtained by either calling or visiting your local election board. The forms are available in many post offices, libraries, schools, state offices and Motor Vehicle Administration offices, said Gene M. Raynor, state administrator of election laws.

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