Long lines at polls point toward Maryland record

November 04, 1992|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,Staff Writer

It's been so long since Mo Zuberi voted for a president that he had trouble remembering the man's name. It was the Republican, he said; yeah, right, Ronald Reagan.

That was 1980, the last time the Howard County man voted in a presidential election. Now he was back to join thousands of other Marylanders who stood in lines, jammed school parking lots and swelled voter turnout to near-record proportions.

Last night, the tally pointed toward an 80 percent turnout of Maryland's 2.5 million registered voters, said Gene M. Raynor, administrator of state election laws. He said the day's turnout would be just short of that mark, but the absentee ballot count on Thursday would raise the total to 80 percent.

That approaches the post-World War II record of 83.4 percent in 1952, surpassing the 79.4 percent that ushered in John F. Kennedy's New Frontier in 1960.

Mr. Raynor said he believes voter registration records are more accurate these days, making the turnout a contemporary record, surpassing a 76 percent vote in 1988.

He said heavy voting across the state was spurred by pleasant weather, the statewide ballot question on abortion rights and, of course, intense interest in the three-way presidential campaign.

Barbara Jackson, head of the Baltimore Board of Supervisors of Elections, said it appeared turnout in the city would reach 73 percent, the most she'd seen in 25 years in office.

The city prepared for the rush by assigning 2,400 judges, 100 more than the usual, and about 20 more voting machines. Still, voters used to breezing in and out of polling places were not happy about the crowds.

"We've had several calls complaining they had to wait in line 15 minutes, 20 minutes," Miss Jackson said.

In Baltimore County, people were still in line waiting to vote at 10:15 last night at Perry Hall Elementary School, more than two hours after the doors closed. Those in line when the polls officially closed at 8 p.m. were allowed to vote.

Nancy Crawford, Anne Arundel County Board of Elections administrator, said she was certain the county total would top the 83-percent record set in 1968 and 1980 and might even reach 90 percent.

If Mr. Zuberi is any indication, voters who passed up previous elections showed up yesterday to register discontent.

Mr. Zuberi, a Perot supporter, turned out because he believes "we are on the brink of disaster. "We have to be very careful who our leaders are."

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