Push to register voters

'A lot of emotion stirred up' in county by next month's presidential election

October 12, 2008|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

James Massey, director of the Harford County Board of Elections, typically carries voter registration forms with him. They came in handy last week when he went to the barbershop.

Before his trim was complete Thursday, he had given out all the forms - to the barber, the receptionist and a few other customers.

"I call it voter outreach," said Massey, whose staff is handling nearly 500 new registration forms a day. "It has been frenetic. A lot of people are saying that they want to vote this year. There has been a lot of emotion stirred up by the presidential election."

Massey is not alone in the effort to gather new registrations. Democrats and Republicans alike are working throughout the county to bolster the rolls of voters before the 9 p.m. deadline Tuesday. Volunteers from both parties will be going door to door, campaigning in area shopping centers and manning booths at community events.

"I think we have hit 9,000 doors and have left thousands of registration forms," said Art Helton, chairman of the New Harford Democratic Club, which launched a registration drive in the southern end of the county early last month. "It is getting easier the closer we get to the deadline. People can't say they will do it next week any more. There is no next week."

Helton and some of the 125 volunteers who have worked on the drive plan one last push this weekend and into Tuesday evening. They are concentrating their efforts in the Route 40 and Interstate 95 corridor, the county's most populous area.

"We are hoping to increase the Democrats' margin for this year and for the 2010 local election," he said.

Although registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by about 2,000 voters in the county, GOP leaders intend to catch up.

"We have been actively registering voters in the last few months, keying into the enthusiasm during this election," said Michael Geppi, chairman of the county's Republican Central Committee. "We are at every community event, talking about our candidates."

And they are encouraging people to register, he said. Enthusiasm for the presidential race is evident throughout the county, he said.

"People want to show support and we can't keep campaign signs in our headquarters," Geppi said. "We just got 1,000 bumper stickers, and they were gone in two days."

Hundreds of registration and absentee forms arrive daily at the county's election headquarters in Forest Hill. Massey expects to meet many new voters in person.

"They will be running in with their forms until we close Tuesday," he said.

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