By Kevin Mcnulty and Kirsten Marie Frese
ANNAPOLIS – State election officials are predicting about 57 percent of Maryland’s registered voters will cast ballots on Tuesday – slightly lower than 1994’s 61 percent.
Tom Surock, director of voter registration for the State Administrative Board of Election Laws, said his guesstimate was based on historical data, the number of people asking about their polling place and the number of requests for absentee ballots.
Surock said many factors – such as highly contested “top-of- ticket” races – can increase voter turnout. But, he said, second- term gubernatorial candidates, bad weather and a booming economy bring turnout down.
The 57 percent prediction is slightly below the 60 percent average for a Maryland gubernatorial election, Surock said. But, he added, exact percentages are difficult to gauge this year because the voter rolls are inflated.
The federal “motor-voter” law, which went into effect in Maryland in 1995, has made it easier for residents to register to vote but more difficult for state officials to remove them if they don’t, Surock said. More than 241,800 of Maryland’s 2.8 million registered voters are now listed as inactive, Surock said.
“You can only compare apples with apples,” Surock said. “You can’t compare this election with the  election. …This is the first gubernatorial election under motor-voter.”
Analysts say a low turnout would help Republican gubernatorial nominee Ellen R. Sauerbrey.
GOP officials said they are hoping for a rainy day.
“Traditionally, a rainy day is good Republican weather,” said Maryland Republican Party Chairwoman Joyce Lyons Terhes.
Tuesday is expected to be mostly sunny, with highs in the mid-50s and lows in the 30s, according to the National Weather Service forecast issued Friday afternoon.
Joan Paik, president of the Maryland League of Women Voters, said turnout may be down Tuesday because voters are getting turned off by the “attack ads” running in the gubernatorial race. “People are frustrated they can’t find information that is credible on the candidates,” she said.
Donald Norris, a public policy professor at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, said another factor could depress turnout: “Neither [gubernatorial] candidate is very popular.” He said, “When voters don’t like either candidate, they tend to stay home.”
Norris said Democratic Gov. Parris Glendening needs a high turnout and big wins in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties and Baltimore City. Those are the only three jurisdictions Glendening won four years ago.
Both parties say they are working hard to get out favorable voters.
“The governor is on the road day and night, using his campaign as a bully pulpit to get his message out,” said Glendening spokesman Len Foxwell.
And President Clinton is coming to Baltimore Sunday morning, at the invitation of Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, to attend services at the New Psalmist Baptist Church with Glendening and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
The Glendening campaign is also phoning voters, canvassing neighborhoods and passing out fliers at Metro stops and shopping centers, Foxwell said.
Meanwhile, the Maryland Republican Party has been mailing and calling voters, said Terhes. And former Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole of Kansas will be appearing Saturday evening at a Baltimore fund-raiser with Sauerbrey. Both candidates are taking bus tours of Maryland this weekend to try to take their message directly to the voters. -30-