Joseph D. Ragan, the Fairfax County Republican chairman, first denied but now admits participating in a decision to remove a Republican voter list from party offices before the Nov. 7 election. As a result, he probably will be stripped of the party leadership if he doesn't resign first, according to a number of GOP officials.

"Ragan's future looks rather bleak at this point." Barbara Hildenbrand, chairman of the party in the Eightn Congressional District, said yesterday. "He will not remain chairman past January if he doesn't resign sooner."

A petition is circulating among Fairfax Republicans calling for Ragan's resignation.

According to Hildenbrand, the removal of the list, which contained the names of voters to be called before the election, has "created an aura of distrust among people that is a sad thing to see."

Ragan reportedly left yesterday for Florida and was unavailable for comment. He was quoted by the Washington Star as saying he participated in the decision to remove the list from the Annandale party office along with four other Republican party leaders.

Three of those four have denied that they had anything to do with the theft of the list, which was returned on the Monday before the election.

The theft of the list, which contained about 7,000 names, probably hurt efforts in Fairfax to call voters favoring Senate candidate John W. Warner, according to Warner supporters.

State Del. Martin Perper (R. Fairfax), a member of a party committee investigating the incident, said yesterday that Ragan had a chance last week to explain what happened to the list, but chose instead to tell his story to a reporter on Sunday.

"Mr. Ragan's actions are distasteful and reprehensible," Perper said.

According to the Star, Ragan said on Sunday that the list of 7,000 names was taken so that party workers calling voters would have no choice but to use another list containing 58,000 names, a list that Ragan had helped compile.