Independents can vote!

Republican primary: For first time, independents have a role in Maryland presidential race.

March 05, 2000

FOR 317,000 Marylanders who opted against registering as a Democrat or a Republican, primary elections are generally lonely affairs. But not this year. For the first time, registered Maryland independents can vote in Tuesday's Republican presidential election.

That's a significant development in a year in which Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Texas Gov. George W. Bush are waging a heated campaign for the nomination. Independents played key roles in New Hampshire and Michigan; they have the chance to do so in Maryland -- if they vote.

Unfortunately, the state Republican Party has put a lid on drumming up interest among independents. That's ironic, because this one-time experiement was their idea.

But nearly all top party officers and elected leaders are supporting Gov. Bush, who hasn't targeted independent voters. So party leaders have done little to get independents to the polls.

What a grand opportunity party leaders are missing to expand interest in the Republican Party. Since Maryland's GOP starts with a 2-1 disadvantage in registered voters, this could have helped narrow the odds.

Instead, Republican leaders look as exclusionary as Maryland Democrats, who won't even discuss letting independents vote in their primary.

Only a heavy turnout could change the minds of GOP leaders about the importance of expanding the party's base on primary-election day.

Independent voters can have a big impact if they cast Republican ballots on Tuesday.

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