OCEAN CITY – Worcester County seems to yet again be bucking the state and national trends as voter registration for the 2008 election has dropped, while numbers are reaching unprecedented levels seemingly everywhere else.
While voter registration numbers are surging to record highs for both Republicans and Democrats in anticipation of the Nov. 4 Presidential election, voter registration locally has dropped slightly from a record 38,000-plus just before the 2004 election to 37,404 as of Tuesday’s statewide deadline.
Patricia Jackson, Election Director of the Worcester County Board of Elections, is not exactly sure why the number has dropped, but said, “that report (in ’04) may have had voters with inactive status. An inactive status means the voter has an address that cannot be verified by the post office and we have received returned mail. We purged the inactive voter list in 2006 after the election, which by law we can do if they were inactive for two federal elections.”
Whatever the reason for the decline, it seems that Worcester County is continuing to do the opposite of national and statewide political trends.
Worcester County has historically and statistically favored Republican candidates in all elections since 1988, even though the state as a whole is considered a “blue state” as far as number of registered voters.
It should be noted that of the 24 counties in the state, only the most populated or “urbanized” counties like Baltimore City, Baltimore, Howard, Prince George’s and Montgomery have voted overwhelmingly Democrat in the past five Presidential elections, while most of the rural counties, including all of the ones that make up the Eastern Shore, seem to lean toward Republican candidates.
Since 1988, the only election that saw an Eastern Shore county have a majority vote for a Democrat was the 1996 election in which Bill Clinton won his second term. Dorchester, Kent and Somerset counties gave the nod to Clinton while Queen Anne’s, Caroline, Wicomico, Cecil, and Worcester stayed true to the Republican voting trends.
The last time a Republican won the state of Maryland as a whole, however, was in 1988 when George H. W. Bush became the nation’s 41st President.
In Annapolis, new voters are coming in by the droves as state voter registration has spiked to 3.3 million. Since Jan. 1, 211,371 new voters have been registered, a large number of those (153,145) Democrat, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections.
“Every election is important, but this one might be the most important of our time. As a result, we are seeing record-breaking voter registration numbers,” Michael Cryor, chairman of the Maryland Democrats, said.
Maryland Republicans are also claiming an increase in interest for their Presidential ticket as Kate Boland, chairperson of the MDGOP voter registration, explained. “People are excited about the McCain/Palin ticket, and they want to cast their vote, some for the very first time. They are coming into GOP offices all over the state and requesting information.”
Since 1948, Maryland voters have chosen a Republican candidate for President six times (‘48, ‘52, ‘56, ‘72, ‘84, ‘88) while choosing a Democrat eight times (‘60, ‘64, ‘68, ‘76, ‘80, ‘92, ‘96, ‘00, ’04).
Worcester County continues to bust trends if you look into the numbers further. Only two of the seven districts in the county, district 5 and 6, have a larger number of Republican voters than Democrat, which would lead one to deduce that Democrat voters are more prone to stay home on Election Day than Republicans. The numbers don’t lie as in every election, both Presidential or Gubernatorial, since 1988, a higher percentage of Worcester Republicans turned out at the polls than did county Democrats.
The trend of Worcester County swinging “to the right” seems to hold true in the Gubernatorial elections as well. Worcester hasn’t voted for a Democratic governor since 1990 when the county gave the nod to William Schaefer’s re-election.
Experts are citing the historic Democratic primary race between former first lady Senator Hilllary Clinton, and Senator Barack Obama, who could become the nation’s first African-American president, as a reason for the spike in Democratic voters, as many states like North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Indiana, and Nevada saw big leaps in voter registration during the primaries. An AP survey also sites Obama’s historic candidacy, the war in Iraq, the Wall Street crisis, interest in Sarah Palin and “conservative’s fear of Barack Obama” being other reasons for higher voter turnout.