ANNAPOLIS – The number of registered voters in Maryland topped the 3 million mark for the first time, as thousands of applications flooded elections boards across the state.
There are 3,105,370 Marylanders registered to vote in next week’s presidential election, a 14 percent increase from the previous registration high of 2,715,366 for the 2000 presidential election. The 2004 total includes 1,717,245 Democrats – 11 percent more than the 1,547,117 in 2000 – and 907,493 Republicans – 13 percent more than the 805,894 in 2000.
Maryland is also seeing a dramatic increase in absentee ballot requests, and though final numbers are not yet available, a state elections official said the final tally could also be a record.
“Absolutely the amount is up greatly,” said Mary Cramer Wagner, director of the State Board of Elections’ voter registration division. Wagner noted that absentee requests have been up in elections boards across the Unites States in the weeks before the hotly contested election.
A recent poll for The (Baltimore) Sun showed Democratic Sen. John Kerry leading Republican President Bush 56 to 39 percent in Maryland. These numbers are nearly identical to Maryland’s 2000 election results, when Democratic Vice President Al Gore carried the state’s 10 electoral votes, defeating then-Gov. George W. Bush 57 to 40 percent.
The record registration total could also translate into Maryland’s highest-ever voter turnout, Wagner said. State elections’ chief Linda Lamone has predicted turnout could be as high as 75 to 80 percent, and Wagner said that is still the expectation. The Maryland record turnout was 82 percent of registered voters in 1992, also a presidential election year, Wagner said.
Polling places will be open Nov. 2 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Any registered voter in line by 8 p.m. will be able to vote, and no one will be turned away, Wagner said.
Absentee ballots must be returned to the local Board of Elections office by 8 p.m. on Election Day. Mailed ballots will be accepted if they bear a postmark proving they were mailed from within the United States before Nov. 2, and were received from the postal service by 4 p.m. on Nov. 3. Ballots mailed from outside the United States must be received by 10 a.m. on Nov. 12.
Voters with questions can go to the State Board of Elections Web site at http://www.elections.state.md.us or call the toll-free number (800) 222-8683. – 30 – CNS-10-29-04