Shareef Prater didn't rise from his bed extra early on a chilly Saturday morning just for Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Nor did he shake off his warm sheets for Barack Obama.

No, Prater's motivation was beating tomorrow's statewide deadline for participating in Pennsylvania's April 22 presidential primary.

"I'm actually undecided right now," said the 28-year-old Northern Liberties resident as he signed a voter registration form at the Central Library of the Free Library of Philadelphia on Vine Street.

A registered independent still seething at being turned away from the voting booth during last year's Democratic mayoral race, Prater said, "I wanted to switch over to Democrat so that I'm not left out again."

As both presidential campaigns trolled for voters yesterday in a final weekend push before the registration deadline, Prater was among a handful who turned out with ballots still up for grabs.

Allen Stiteler, a registered independent for at least 17 years, also showed up at the Free Library to become a Philadelphia Democrat. This voter registration drive is the library's biggest such effort yet.

"My wife, my daughter, my son-in-law - everyone is picking a different person, and so it's quite an interesting dialogue going on in the family," said Stiteler, 67.

He wants to participate with more than just words, but isn't yet sure whether he will cast a ballot for Clinton or Obama. Still, he said, "I feel I owe it to myself not to sit on the sidelines."

With the national race continuing to be close between the senators from New York and Illinois, the number of registered Democrats statewide has surged in recent weeks. The latest figures show the Democratic Party has gained 111,227 voters since November, while the Republican Party has shrunk by 13,391.

Moreover, since Jan. 1, there have been 57,651 already-registered voters - largely Republicans and independents - who, like Prater and Stiteler, became Democrats. Alternatively, the Republican Party grew by 10,754 party-switchers in that time.

In Philadelphia yesterday, independent voters were largely on the minds of Clinton organizers. Volunteers who yesterday morning were at the local campaign headquarters at Delaware Avenue and Spring Garden Street left with address lists of registered independents and blank registration forms.

"This is an important state, an important time, and it's a national election," said 56-year-old Ellen Landsberger. Bundled up in a long brown coat, the Fort Lee, N.J., resident and her high school friend, Ellen Rautenberg, also 56, were getting set to start knocking on 79 doors in the Torresdale section of Northeast Philadelphia.

In the past, both had raised campaign money for Clinton, but now they wanted to help in a more active way, Landsberger said. "Hillary's been out there fighting for us for a number of years, and I thought it was time to put my body out there and return the favor."

At Malcolm X Park in West Philadelphia, voter registration efforts led by Obama supporters mixed in with the park's 15th annual Easter egg hunt.

There, 46-year-old Stacey Livingston grabbed a voter registration form with conviction.

"It's for my husband," a night-shift Philadelphia police officer still asleep at their home, she said. "He's like, 'If I don't get to vote for Obama in this election, I'm going to kill you.' "

Malichi Nelson, a 38-year-old writer, also filled out a form.

"I used to have the attitude that my vote didn't count," she said. But now her father has persuaded her otherwise, and she "wants to make sure there's no mistake."

Nelson is still divided, though, between Clinton and Obama.

"How will I decide? Whoever is more serious about the issues is how I'll make up my mind," she said. More important now was "making sure my voice counts. It won't be too little too late."

Contact staff writer Marcia Gelbart at 215-854-2338 or mgelbart@phillynews.com.