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Registered to vote? Time running short

2012 is an election year, highlighted by the quadrennial presidential selection process: Every four years, American voters choose a president and a vice president.

The announcement last weekend that former Bain and Co. executive Willard (Mitt) Romney had chosen Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan to be his running mate seems to have made the choice this year very clear: Republicans will nominate the pair in its party convention later this month, while Democrats will gather during Labor Day week to nominate President Obama and Vice President Biden for a second term.

While the national campaigns will draw the most attention, voters will also choose among candidates for local positions, including State Senate and State Representative and Suffolk County offices including Clerk of Court.

Locally, depending on the neighborhood, Dorchester and Mattapan voters will be asked to vote for the Congressional seats now held by Michael Capuano and Stephen Lynch. The districts of both incumbent Democrats have been re-configured, with Capuano picking up some precincts currently in Lynch’s district, and Lynch’s South Boston-based district gaining more voters in Quincy and some suburban towns.

The dominant campaign statewide will certainly be the contest for US Senate, in which Republican incumbent Scott Brown will compete with Democrat Elizabeth Warren.

While much campaign focus will be directed toward the presidential election on Tues., Nov. 6, the Democrat and Republican party primary elections are just three weeks away. For the first time in memory, primary voting will take place not on a Tuesday, but later in the week, on Thurs., Sept. 6. Coming in the middle of a short holiday week three days after Labor Day – and during the week that most schools re-open for the season – it’s likely that voter turnout will be very light.

Election officials have embarked on a voter registration drive, and tomorrow (Fri., Aug. 17) is the last day to register to vote or to change party affiliation in the primary. For the presidential election, the last day to register to vote and to change party affiliation is Wed., Oct. 17.

For eligible voters who cannot vote in person, Secretary of State Galvin has posted this notice about absentee ballots: “Massachusetts allows voters to vote by absentee ballot if they:
• will be absent from your city or town on election day, and/or
• have a physical disability that prevents your voting at the polling place, and/or
• cannot vote at the polls due to religious beliefs.

“You may have an absentee ballot mailed to you or you may vote at your city or town hall by making arrangements with your local election official. To be counted, a completed ballot must be received by the time the polls close on Election Day. If you are voting from outside the United States, your completed absentee ballot for a final state or city election can be received up until 10 days after the election, but must be postmarked on or before Election Day.”

Application forms for absentee ballots are available online at sec.state.ma.us