Campaign ends with Clinton favored Voter excitement may lead to record Maryland turnout

November 03, 1992|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Staff Writer Staff writer Sandy Banisky contributed to this article.

Maryland's fired-up voters go to the polls today in what state election officials say could be a record turnout even if the weather is bad.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

In addition to voting for president, Marylanders will choose a U.S. senator and eight members of the House of Representatives. The state's eight congressional districts were redrawn in accordance with the 1990 census to give each roughly the same population.

The three presidential candidates are the incumbent Republican, President George Bush; Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, the Democrat; and Independent Ross Perot, a Texas billionaire whose entry, exit and re-entry added to the potent chemistry of electoral excitement this year.

All three presidential campaigns have said Maryland's popular votes, and its 10 electoral votes, matter to them in the national strategy to accumulate the 270 electoral votes needed for victory.

The senate race pits the first-term Democratic incumbent, Barbara A. Mikulski, against Alan L. Keyes, the Republican who is making his second Senate bid. He ran unsuccessfully in 1986 against Democratic Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes.

Voter interest has been stimulated this year by an emotion-charged referendum on a law that would keep most abortions legal in Maryland. Four county initiatives that would limit taxes are also expected to attract people to the polls.

Morning cloudiness is likely to give way to a partly sunny afternoon, according to the National Weather Service. Temperatures could reach 70.

The turnout could go beyond the record set in 1988 when 75 percent of Maryland's registered voters went to the polls, according to Gene M. Raynor, head of the state Administrative Board of Election Laws. Mr. Raynor bases his turnout prediction on a number of factors, including the 300,000 new voters registered this fall, the ballot initiative on the abortion law and requests for 25,000 absentee ballots, exceeding the 1988 total by several thousand.

"Even with rain tomorrow we're going to have a good turnout," he said.

Representatives of all three presidential campaigns say volunteer legions have been doing political versions of the wave at high visibility intersections all over the state -- waving campaign signs at passing motorists.

Two of the three campaigns are working hard to make sure voters they have targeted get to their polling places. To identify supporters, these campaigns have made thousands of telephone calls over the last three months.

In keeping with the somewhat unorthodox approach of Mr. Perot, his backers are doing no targeting. Using a network of county coordinators and 16,000 volunteers, the Perot team is staffing the phones just as their competitors are, but they are calling only for the purpose of getting voters -- any voters -- to the polls.

"We want America to vote. We're breaking the mold," says Frank Adorney, a volunteer. "We're after that 60 percent who sit back and watch everything happen."

In 1988, Maryland went to George Bush by about 49,000 votes. Former President Ronald Reagan won Maryland in 1984. So, the Democratic forces of Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton have taken nothing for granted despite their party's 2-to-1 advantage in voter registration here.

Yesterday, the Democrats finished leafletting in targeted precincts "where Democratic performance can be improved by higher visibility," according to Jon Spalter, spokesman for the Clinton campaign in Maryland. One final "blitz trip" led by Democratic elected officials was completed through Baltimore.

Republicans accelerated their phone-calling and "roadside activity," according to Carol A. Arscott, a campaign spokeswoman.

The abortion law put to referendum as Question 6 on the ballot would keep most abortions in Maryland legal even if the U.S. Supreme Court should overturn its 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision, which found a constitutional right to abortion.

The law would allow abortion without government interference until the time in pregnancy when the fetus might be able to survive outside the womb. Later abortions would be allowed only if the woman's life or health is at risk or if the fetus is deformed.

Abortion opponents call the law "extremist." Abortion-rights backers call it "a moderate compromise."

For months, the anti-abortion forces have worked to persuade voters that "it's a bad law" that should be rejected by abortion-rights supporters and foes alike. Members of the Columbia-based Vote kNOw Coalition, which was organized by abortion foes, have maintained they are not necessarily anti-abortion, just against this law.

But Maryland for Choice, leading the campaign to pass the law, says Vote kNOw is simply an anti-abortion organization that wants to ban abortion.

The two sides have raised a total of more than $3 million for their campaigns, according to finance reports that list donations through mid-October. And over the last weekend, advertising and door-to-door campaigning reached a peak.

"Against Question 6" ballots were distributed in Roman Catholic churches and to other congregations. The campaign also was running a television commercial featuring women who describe themselves as "pro-choice" but against Question 6.

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