Know your presidential primary

Depending on just how super Super Tuesday turns out to be, the Virginia presidential primaries might just become meaningful. On February 5, Super Tuesday, 24 states hold primaries that will go a long way in determining presidential candidates for both parties. But maybe not all the way.

Barack Obama will be on the February 12 Democratic primary ballot, but so will also-rans like Bill Richardson and Joe Biden.

If Super Tuesday fails to cement both a Democratic and Republican candidate, then Virginia’s February 12 primary suddenly gains more importance than originally thought. The national spotlight will be on you, Virginia! With that in mind, keep your fingers out of your nose, smile and try not to screw this up. Here’s what you need to know.

Polls in the city and county will open at 6am and close at 7pm. Because Virginia, unlike most states, is an open-primary state, anyone registered to vote in Virginia can vote in either the Democratic or Republican primary. But be prepared to pick. Election officials will ask whether you want a Democratic or Republican ballot, something that doesn’t happen in local and statewide elections.

“Some people are going to feel like that’s an invasion of privacy,” says Sheri Iachetta, the city’s general registrar. “But if they want to vote, they’re going to have to say ‘I want the Democratic [or Republican] ballot.’”

A word about those ballots. They aren’t exactly what you’d call “up-to-date.” Each ballot has six candidates, most of whom have dropped out of the race. Virginia, the nation is watching. Don’t vote for these losers. Your vote will be wasted. Thank you.

Here are each of the ballots, with the names in the order you will see them, with viable candidates in bold.

Democratic Primary: Barack Obama, Dennis J. Kucinich, Hillary Clinton, Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, John Edwards.

Republican Primary: Ron Paul, John McCain, Fred D. Thompson, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney.

While you can only vote in one primary, it doesn’t matter if you belong to that party. Unlike in most states, you don’t register with a party; those who consider themselves Republicans can vote for the Democratic candidate and vise versa.

So this is it, Virginia. All eyes are on you…if Super Tuesday doesn’t produce clear-cut winners. If it does, well, just go out there and have some fun.

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