By VEENA TREHAN, Capital News Service
WASHINGTON - Just a few days remain for Maryland residents to register to vote in the primary election scheduled for Feb. 12.
Voters must register by Tuesday to choose nominees for Congress, president and other officials in the upcoming primary election.
This primary may offer residents an unusual ability to influence their party's nomination for president. The top Democratic candidates - Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton - split Iowa and New Hampshire. On the Republican side, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Arkansas Gov. Michael Huckabee and Arizona Sen. John McCain each won at least one state. Experts say the divided fields may create an exciting opportunity for Maryland residents.
"Maryland now knows its nominees for delegates (have) the potential to be part of the decision-making process," said Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports.
Residents must register with the Democratic or Republican Party to vote in the presidential primary. Voters already registered with a party may not change their affiliation until after the election next month. The deadline for party changes fell on Nov. 19, 2007.
State residents who are U.S. citizens and are 18 or older by Nov. 4, may either mail their application or hand deliver it to a local board of elections. Mailed applications must be postmarked on or before Jan. 22.
Applications may also be completed at other locations statewide, including Motor Vehicle Administration offices, public colleges, post offices, and local and Maryland boards of elections. They must be submitted by 9 p.m. on Jan. 22. That is also the deadline for providing updated address information to the local board.
Residents convicted of felonies may be eligible to vote if they have completed their court-ordered sentence of imprisonment and their mandated parole or probation.
The voter registration application includes basic information, and a Maryland driver's license or Motor Vehicle Administration Identification Card number, when available. Residents without a driver's license may provide the last four digits of their Social Security number, or they may affirm they have none of these forms of identification.
And, once registered, it's critical residents come to the polls, said Maryland State Board of Elections official Mary Cramer Wagner.
"A lot of people register but don't follow through," said Wagner, the board's director of voter registration. "Historically, for the primary, maybe 30 percent of those registered vote."
Maryland Democrats will send 99 delegates to their national nominating convention in August. Presidential candidates winning at least 15 percent of the total votes will be represented.
Maryland Republicans will send 37 delegates to their nominating convention in September. The winner of the statewide vote wins all at-large delegates allocated for Maryland. The winner from the state's eight congressional districts gets all delegates for that district.
For more information, voters may contact the Maryland State Board of Elections at 1-800-222-VOTE (8683) or visit www.elections.state.md.us or contact the office for your county:
Calvert County Board of Elections
410-535-2214 or 301-855-1376
Office Hours: Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Charles County Board Of Elections
301-934-8972 or 301-870-3167
Office Hours: Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
St. Mary's County Board of Elections
301-475-7844 x1610 or x1611
Office Hours: Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. 5:00 p.m.