As the Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reported earlier this week, presidential primary ballots will be mailed to Mesa County voters beginning Friday.

It’s the first time in 20 years Coloradans will get to cast ballots in a presidential primary and the first ever in which unaffiliated voters can participate.

There’s already been some confusion over several aspects of the voting process so we thought it would be useful to review what’s happening.

It’s too late for voters to change their party affiliation for purposes of voting in the March 3 presidential primary. But Friday is the deadline to affiliate with either the Republican or Democratic party in order to be able to participate in the March 7 precinct caucuses, which are held to choose delegates in down-ticket races, such as U.S. House representatives and senators.

But like the presidential primary, unaffiliated voters don’t have to affiliate with a party to be able to vote in the June 30 “state primary” elections.

This is also the first year that 17-year-olds will be able to participate in Colorado’s two primaries, provided they turn 18 by the General Election on Nov. 3.

In each primary (the presidential primary on March 3 and the “state primary” on June 30) registered Republican and Democratic voters will receive the ballot of their party. Unaffiliated voters will receive ballots from both major parties, but are only allowed to return one filled-out ballot.

If an unaffiliated voter casts both, neither will be counted, as the law requires.

Voters who want to become unaffiliated or request a specific party ballot for the state primary must do so by June 1.

For more information on Colorado’s two primaries, visit www.sos.state.co.us. Coloradans can update and verify voter registration, register to vote online, or find their Voting Service and Polling Center at www.GoVoteColorado.gov, according to a news release from the Colorado Secretary of State Office. Or you can call the Mesa County Elections Division at (970) 244-1662.

March 3, dubbed “Super Tuesday” includes primaries in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia.

Between now and then, the field of Democratic candidates may be narrowed. For example, Colorado’s U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet withdrew from the presidential race after a poor showing in New Hampshire on Tuesday. Others may follow suit depending on results of the Nevada Democratic caucus (Feb. 22) and South Carolina primary (Feb. 29).

So it may be helpful to wait until closer to March 3 to ensure that some candidates’ campaigns are still viable. Colorado set its ballot in early January when 17 candidates were still running.

If you’re reading this, you are undoubtedly invested in your community, your state and your country. Please don’t fail to participate.

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