Republican voter gains in Howard HOWARD COUNTY

October 26, 1992

More Marylanders -- 67.7 percent of the voting-age population -- have registered to vote a week from tomorrow than at any time since the 1984 general election.

And while Republicans have been steadily increasing the number of registered voters in many jurisdictions, including here in Howard County, 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 after the two parties' presidential conventions this summer.

If the registration trend results in equally high voter participation, Maryland could witness one of the heaviest turnouts since the 1960 campaign between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon.

Next week's election will be particularly interesting in the suburban counties surrounding Baltimore, where the number of registered Republicans has been eroding the traditional voting edge that 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 majorities keep getting slimmer.

Howard County is an intriguing example.

The Democratic lead in voter registration here has narrowed from 15,719 in 1988 to 14,828 this year. That may not seem to be much of a gain, but it is in line with the GOP trend throughout Maryland suburbia.

In Harford County, for example, Democrats still enjoyed an advantage of 20,686 registered voters over the GOP four years ago. That edge has now been cut 17 percent, to 17,083. In the same time frame, the Democratic advantage in Anne Arundel County narrowed 21 percent, from 40,000 voters to 31,453.

Baltimore City is a peculiar case. The city has lost so many residents that, despite frantic -- and successful -- registering efforts, it has more than 43,000 fewer Democrats this year than in 1988. Meanwhile, the number of registered Republicans has remained virtually constant. They remain badly outnumbered, though, by a nearly 9-1 margin.

Yet party affiliation in registration figures may not matter much. What matters is the decision each Howard County voter makes Nov. 3.

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