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Wednesday, April 9, 2008 - Page updated at 05:49 PM

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NC Voter Registrations Surge

Associated Press Writer

More than four times as many blacks have registered to vote in North Carolina during the first few months of 2008 as four years ago, a sign that bodes well for Sen. Barack Obama in the state's May 6 Democratic presidential primary.

There has also been a boom in voter registrations overall across age, race, gender and party affiliation, according to the North Carolina state board of elections. And, even though the traditional registration period closes Friday, the numbers may continue to climb if voters take advantage of North Carolina's new same-day registration law.

More than 45,000 blacks signed up to vote in the first three months of 2008, compared with just over 11,000 in the first three months of 2004. White voter registration more than doubled with 106,000 new registrations between Jan. 1 and March 31, compared with 47,000 four years ago.

Blacks have historically accounted for about one-third of voters in North Carolina's Democratic primary. Obama has won a string of Southern primaries and caucuses in states with a large share of black voters.

More of the new voters registered as Democrats, with the number nearly tripling from 2004 to 74,590. Republican registrations more than doubled to 41,301, while more than 49,558 unaffiliated voters signed up, compared with just 16,858 in the first three months of 2004.

There were less than 5.1 million people registered to vote in May 2004, compared with more than 5.7 million today. The Democratic presidential race was over early by comparison to this year, with North Carolina Sen. John Edwards bowing out to Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts after the March 2 Super Tuesday elections.

But this year, the North Carolina primary could be critical to the fortunes of Obama and his rival, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The campaigns continue to ramp up their efforts to draw in new voters ahead of the state primary, which will divide 115 delegates between the candidates - the last triple-digit delegate count before this summer's Democratic Party convention in Denver.

Mike Trujillo, Clinton's North Carolina field director, said the Clinton campaign has placed a heavy focus on a new advertising campaign that asks prospective voters to submit questions to Clinton through a Web site. Thousands have responded - connecting the campaign with many uncommitted and unregistered voters, he said.

The Obama campaign launched several voter registration initiatives in the past few weeks, bringing in singer Tatyana Ali to lead registration drives and launching a competition that awards the leading registration recruiters a meeting with Obama.

"It's not enough that you're registered. It's not enough that you're fired up and ready to go," Obama's wife, Michelle, said during a speech this week in Winston-Salem. "All of you know about 20 trifling people in your lives, that after a whole long year, still don't know there's a presidential election coming up. You have to pick up the phone."

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