Howard County's elections office is seeing a significant spike in new voters as the registration deadline approaches for the Nov. 2 presidential election.

"We are very, very busy," said Betty L. Nordaas, who took over as elections chief last month.

"We are getting about 400 new registrations daily. The volume we are handling seems to be up significantly," she said. The office also is expecting to process about 4,200 requests for absentee ballots.

There are no data yet on which party is seeing the greatest number of new voters, though registration closes Tuesday and the data should be available after that, Nordaas said. As of late August, she said, there were 155,709 registered voters in Howard. Of those, 72,706 were Democrats and 54,771 were Republicans. An additional 26,390 were unaffiliated, and the remainder belonged to other parties.

"It is so great," she said. "I am pleased to see this turnout. It shows that people do care."

Nordaas also is busy lining up election judges and alternates; most of the 1,100 or so judges have been selected, but there is still room for some alternates, she said. Judges are paid $150 for their work.

Newly registered voters, she said, should be sure to have identification with them when they go to the polls on Election Day.

The surge in registrations in Howard is also being seen elsewhere in the region and around the country. In Virginia, 43,000 new voters were registered in August, up 30 percent from the same period four years ago. In Maryland, officials said they enrolled more than 46,000 new voters in August, compared with 25,580 in August 2000.

Making a Difference

County Executive James N. Robey (D) and the Commission on Disability Issues during a breakfast today are expected to recognize county residents and businesses that have made a difference to and inspired individuals with disabilities in the community.

Tatyana McFadden, 15, of Clarksville will receive the youth award. Aside from doing well in school and being regarded as a leader by her teachers and peers, she is an athlete with paraplegia who became the National Wheelchair Champion in the 800-, 400-, 200- and 100-meter events and competed in the 2004 Summer Paralympic Games in Athens.

The individual achievement award goes to Tim Daly, president and founder of the Access Group, a Columbia company that provides training and consulting to businesses about people with disabilities. Daly, who has a neuromuscular disorder that limits his mobility, is the author of "Ramping Up for Profits" and has founded a travel agency specializing in travelers with disabilities. He is also a civic activist working with several county organizations.

Erik Rochard, owner of Cafe de Paris off Route 108 in Columbia, and his staff will receive the accessibility award for rearranging their kitchen to accommodate a worker who uses a wheelchair.

Romano's Macaroni Grill in Columbia Crossing is "Employer of the Year" for hiring three individuals with disabilities.

Andre Fontaine, an architect skilled in designing residential facilities that provide independent living for adults with physical disabilities, is winner of the Ralph Mulloy Advocacy Award. He has been nationally recognized for his design of St. Matthew's House in Columbia. He was involved in redesigning the County Council Chambers in the George Howard Building in Ellicott City and in resolving issues about curbs during the Central Library renovation in Columbia.

The service provider award goes to Tommy DeWeese, scoutmaster for Troop 615 in Ellicott City, where parents praise his leadership in developing survival skills and creating a troop without cliques. His troop includes Scouts with disabilities.

Paralympic athlete Tatyana McFadden, 15, of Clarksville is the winner of the youth award from the county's Commission on Disability Issues.