By Cara Hogan
The Republican primary race may be heating up, but the number of registered Granite State voters hasn't increased.
In fact, the total number of registered voters is down across the state, according to the office of Secretary of State William Gardner. As of Dec. 14, there were 767,383 voters registered, compared to 863,542 in 2008, about an 11 percent decline.
A purge of the checklist Aug. 31, 2011, resulted in a drop of 97,541 voters statewide. Even so, most local supervisors of the checklist said fewer people have registered to vote for this presidential primary than in past years.
Pam Hartung, supervisor of the checklist in Hampstead, said she thinks the numbers are down in her town because Democrats have no reason to register.
"A lot of people are calling this a Republican primary," she said. "It's just Obama for the Democrats, with no opposition, where back in 2008, both parties had a lot of people running. It was totally open. And there was more registration because of it."
The majority of registered voters in local towns are undeclared. In Londonderrry, Gerry VanGrevenhof said they registered just seven people during after-hours session on Tuesday and most were undeclared.
"It's been slow registering," she said. "We've probably had eight to 12 each night the past few weeks. But we've been seeing more Republicans and undeclared voters registering."
Derry was one of the only towns that reported higher numbers this year, according to supervisor of the checklist Renee Routhier.
"There have been a good amount of people coming in to register," she said. "It was surprising, actually. It's been more undeclared voters coming in to register."
At this point, Routhier said, no one wants to commit to a party.
"People want to learn as much about the candidates and then make a decision," she said. "Being undeclared gives them the chance to take either ballot."
Windham supervisor of the checklist Robert Skinner said the undeclared voters might as well be Republicans.
"The contest is on the Republican ballot, so that's where the voters are going to go," he said. "Most of the undeclared are going to pick up a Republican ballot; that's my opinion."
But VanGrevenhof said the low numbers so far don't show the whole picture, because a lot of people would rather register to vote the day of the primary.
"We're going to get bombarded probably the day of the election, which is the norm lately," she said.
"They all seem to like to come that day and wait in line."
In Plaistow, the extra session on Tuesday night wasn't busy at all, but that doesn't mean registration is down.
"No one came in," supervisor of the checklist Nancy Jackman said.
"It's not unusual. They're able to register Election Day and I expect many people will register the day of. I'm prepared for a deluge."
In Danville and Pelham, registration has continued to be slow and steady, according to the supervisors of the checklist.
Holly Ouelette, Kingston supervisor of the checklist clerk, said the town's numbers are much lower than in 2008.
"It's definitely slower than past years," she said.
But there has been an influx of first-time voters. At a special registration session at Pinkerton Academy last month, Derry registered 70 high school seniors who recently turned 18. Hartung said Hampstead registered 25 seniors at the school.
"Pinkerton has students from Chester, Derry and Hampstead, and each town sent a person there to register voters during senior lunch hour," Hartung said.
"We're talking about doing it again in October because this one was very successful."
Salem Town Clerk Susan Wall said they also registered more than 40 seniors at Salem High School on Tuesday.
Salem has 16,595 registered voters, down from about 23,000 voters last year, but Wall said the numbers are slightly misleading.
"We purged people from the list who haven't voted in the last four years, who were deceased or moved out of town," she said.
"But registration has been pretty steady. We've had about five or 10 people coming in per day to register. Undeclared voters are up."
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How voters stack up
*Statewide numbers are as of Dec. 14. Town numbers are as of yesterday.