Maryland voters flocking to the polls Number of ballots cast could eclipse record 75% participation in 1988

November 03, 1992|By Joe Nawrozki and C. Fraser Smith | Joe Nawrozki and C. Fraser Smith,Staff Writers Staff writers Richard Irwin and Sandy Banisky contributed to this article.

Spring-like weather greeted Marylanders today as the start of what could be a record number of voters flocked to the polls to select a president, a senator and representatives from the state's eight congressional districts.

Voters in Maryland's 23 counties and Baltimore also are making choices on a controversial statewide referendum on abortion in addition to a long list of local races and ballot questions.

Gene M. Raynor, administrator of state election laws, reported early today that operations were "going smoothly" at the 1,551 polling places around the state.

He predicted over 75 percent of the more than 2.4 million registered voters would vote by the day's end -- possibly breaking a record of 75 percent established in 1988.

"We have lines of people at virtually every station we have talked with," Mr. Raynor said about an hour after state polls opened. "This is a far cry from recent previous elections when you could have shot a cannon outside the polling places and not hit anyone."

Mr. Raynor based his 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.

Barbara E. Jackson, head of the Baltimore City Board of Supervisors of Elections, said she assigned extra judges to at least five polling locations because of the heavy crowds.

"The crowds were new to lots of the newer judges, and we had to send some seasoned people out to give a hand," Miss Jackson said.

She said that a roving group of 25 mechanics were cruising the city to repair any problems at the voting machines.

Indicative of the early turnout was the crowd at the 9th District, 24th Precinct, at Pine Grove Elementary School, 2700 block of Summit Ave. in Parkville.

More than 30 voters stood in line outside the school while others took their turns inside the booths. The parking lot was full. Nearby streets were choked with vehicles.

A heavy early turnout was also reported at Roland Park Elementary School, 5200 block of Roland Ave., in Baltimore.

Polls opened at 7 a.m. and are to close at 8 p.m. The National Weather Service said temperatures could reach 70 degrees today and skies would be sunny.

In addition to voting for president, Marylanders are choosing 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 first-term Democratic incumbent Barbara A. Mikulski against Alan L. Keyes, a Republican who is making his second Senate bid. He ran unsuccessfully in 1986 against Democratic Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes.

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 also are expected to attract people to the polls.

Representatives of the presidential campaigns say volunteers 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.

In 1988, Maryland went for Mr. Bush by about 49,000 votes. Ronald Reagan won Maryland in 1984.

Yesterday, the Democrats finished distributing leaflets 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.

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