ANNAPOLIS – Voter registration for the two major parties is down this year compared with four years ago, according to data from the county boards of elections.
Almost 2 percent more Marylanders are registered as third-party or independent voters than in 1996. That’s about 70,000 more people than four years ago for a total of about 363,000 this year.
The 2000 data was compiled from preliminary reports from county boards of elections and includes only active voters. Voters get this distinction if they vote regularly, stay at the same address or keep their address current with the election board.
With the last day to register to vote for the Nov. 7 general election on Oct. 13, county boards of elections are still receiving some stray mail-in registrations, so figures are preliminary.
The total number of registered voters in Maryland has increased about 10 percent from 2.47 million in 1996 to about 2.72 million now.
In Montgomery County, where Democratic registration remains steady at about 53 percent, Republican registration dropped from 30 to 28 percent of the total registration in the last four years.
Third-party and unaffiliated voters rose from about 17 to 19 percent.
“The growth…has been in the number of people who are not affiliating with a major political party,” said Stuart Harvey, spokesman for the Montgomery County Board of Elections.
“Those unaffiliated or independent voters are picking up more influence nationally,” said Robert J. Antonetti Sr., Howard County Board of Elections director.
In Howard County, the drop is distributed almost equally between the two major parties with each losing about one percent to third parties and independents, which total about 17 percent.
Actual losses to either the Democrats or Republicans are not great, said Antonetti. Two percent of Maryland’s total registered voters only amounts to about 54,000 people, about the total number of registered voters in Charles County.
“There’s a lot of people who are really dissatisfied with the issues in the two major parties,” said Antonetti.
“They want to be known as independent thinkers,” said Robin Downs, Prince George’s County Board of Elections acting elections administrator.
Prince George’s County has the second highest percentage of registered Democrats in the state, at about 73 percent. Baltimore is highest at about 83 percent.
Prince George’s also contains nearly as many third-party and unaffiliated voters as Republicans, between about 13 and 14 percent.
“I think it’s just a matter of being labeled,” Downs said. Unaffiliated voters, who often vote for the candidates of the two major parties, don’t want to be called Democrats or Republicans, she said.
But, “they come to the polls,” said Downs.
Among other things, Maryland registered voters will get to cast their vote for the president, a senator, a congress member and two statewide ballot questions on Nov. 7.