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I’ve noticed that information about the primary here in Massachusetts is a bit scarce. The Secretary of State’s Office deserves credit for advertising on television and trying to drive voter turnout, but it doesn’t seem that the message is getting out.
Massachusetts residents are facing perhaps the most important presidential primary they have ever voted in. The nominations have never been so in flux in nearly a generation. Both parties do not have a clear winner, and each campaigns is shifting their focus to a long term primary outlook.
2008 is no longer about Iowa and New Hampshire. It’s about Super Tuesday and the states that follow. And Massachusetts sits in a position of power to determine who the nominee may eventually be.
This from the Washington Post:
“Tad Devine, a longtime Democratic strategist with experience in many campaigns, said victory might be determined by the big states with contests on Super Tuesday. The six largest are California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Georgia.
“If someone were to win five of six of those and the other wins only their home state, the race is likely over,” Devine said. by Dan Balz
In light of this, I felt it necessary to share a quick history and voter’s guide to the most salient questions I’ve been asked about the Massachusetts Primary. A political professional, I feel I am equipped to answer all of your questions. If you have further ones, feel free to leave a comment.
Can I vote in the Massachusetts Primary?
Only if you are a registered to vote prior to Wednesday, January 16th. At the time of this writing it looks like the deadline has passed for all of you who have not yet registered. Sorry kids.
Can Independents vote in the Massachusetts Primary?
Yes. (Be careful here. If you have officially declared your party as the ‘Independent Party’, you won’t be able to vote. If you’re not sure that you are a part of the Independent Party, trust me, you’ll know.)
Can the ‘Unenrolled’ vote in the Massachusetts Primary?
Yes. (‘Unenrolled’ is the official term for what we used to refer to as ‘Independent’. If you are unenrolled, which means you belong to no party whatsoever, you may show up at your polling place and choose a Democratic or Republican ballot.)
Why can Independents/Unenrolled vote in the Massachusetts Primary?
We have what is called a modified closed primary in Massachusetts. This is worth explaining. In an ‘open’ primary, any registered voter can vote in any party’s primary – it doesn’t matter if you are a registered Democrat and want to vote in the Republican primary – some states allow this to happen.
In a ‘closed’ primary, only voters who are registered with a party may vote. Once at their polling place, ‘closed’ primary voters may only take a ballot for the party that they are registered for. A Democrat may not cross over and vote in a Republican primary or vice versa. Thus the term ‘closed’.
In our modified closed primary, Massachusetts has chosen to only allow those who meet the following criteria to vote:
- You must be registered to vote.
- You must be enrolled as a Democrat or Republican; OR
- Are listed as Unenrolled (formerly known as ‘Independent’)
That’s it. If you meet the above criteria, you are eligible to vote in the primary.
Caveat: If you are registered Republican or Democrat, you MUST vote in your party’s primary – only those listed as ‘Unenrolled’ can choose either a Democratic or Republican ballot. This is how Massachusetts is still referred to as a ‘closed’ primary. There is no inter-party voting because only unenrolled voters can choose which ballot they want.
I can confidently say without hyperbole that the primary matters a great deal. Aside from the reasons stated above, when a presidential primary comes to a state like Massachusetts and the voting will still determine the outcome, it is a rare opportunity for voters to have their voices heard nationally .
If you are a Democrat, your vote will contribute to your candidate’s delegate total when it comes to convention time. Even if your candidate doesn’t win Massachusetts, the better he or she does, the more delegates he or she will have to potentially be the nominee.
If you are a Republican, let’s face it, your vote is probably even more important in determining your party’s nominee. The former-governor-turned-candidate subplot aside, this race is completely up for grabs. After February 5th is done and your vote is counted, we might see someone claim the mantle of frontrunner.
If you’re an Independent voter, you should feel equally enamored. Independents are widely known to be the heartbeat of the voting public whose opinions are frequently the basis for the ‘mandate’ that new presidents talk about during their first days. There should be no doubt that the candidates want your vote more than anything else. If you help in choosing either of the nominees, you’ll help shape the next 4 years of public policy. (also see Why Super Tuesday Is So Important)
What resources are out there for me?
I’m afraid that not many will go this length in explaining the logic of our primary system to you, but I will point you in the right direction as far as where to vote in your neighborhood.
Massachusetts Secretary of State’s Office http://www.sec.state.ma.us/
Where Do I Vote? Massachusetts http://www.wheredoivotema.com/bal/myelectioninfo.php
Check back here for updates and bookmark the above pages. And be sure to leave a comment if you have any questions.