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COMMENTARY: Primaries: The forgotten elections

Primaries are the forgotten elections.

It's summer. There are a million things to do in the north county: swimming, fishing, boating, skiing, tubing, gardening, bike rides and seeing our friends and family.

So why should we take time to vote now? What does it matter? The REAL election is in November!

But primaries are so important to all of us. A primary election determines which candidates will be on the ballot in the November general election. This is the time that people can have a voice in choosing.

Overall, 294,797 Minnesotans cast ballots in the 2016 primary, which featured no statewide races other than a low-profile, nonpartisan judicial election. That's 9.42 percent of registered voters, but just 7.43 percent of eligible Minnesota voters.

The question we all have to ask ourselves is do we want to have only 7 percent of eligible voters deciding who will be on the ballot in November? Or do we take the time to be an informed voter and make our own decisions?

Think of this in terms of the lottery. If you play only for the big jackpot and a million others play also, you have only 1 in a million chance to win. But if you play when only 70,000 others play, you have a one in 70,000th chance of winning. For voting, that means you have a much stronger voice.

To be an informed voter during the primary you have to do some work on your own. There are not as many ads or campaign flyers. There are likely many small campaign stops by candidates but you have to take time to go to that location. So the first step is to go to the Secretary of State's website ( A good place to start your search is to fill in your address to get your sample ballot. This will have live links to the candidates' websites. Read the issues and background of each candidate. You can go on to search for other sources of information about them. Ask your friends, or check out Facebook or Twitter. If you like a candidate, go to one of their events. It is important that you decide based on what you think is best for your family, county, state, etc.

The next step is to vote. In Minnesota, you can cast your ballot now until Aug. 13 by going to your county courthouse. (If you are not registered, you can register at the same time. If you are new to the county or have moved, bring along an electric bill or similar item with your new address or bring another registered voter to vouch for you).

Once you are registered you can cast your ballot or get an absentee ballot. When you vote absentee you can vote at home, which means you can research a candidate, decide and mark your ballot. You can vote in one race at a time. Remember that mailed ballots must be returned by election day: Aug. 14. Also remember that you vote only in one party's primary. Do not mix parties.

On August 14, all the polling places will be open. You can go that day to vote.

On Election Day, polling places will be open and you can go that day to vote. If you live in a township with mailed ballots, be sure to mail your ballot so it arrives by Nov. 6. You could deliver it in person by 8 p.m. on Election Day or ask someone to deliver it for you.

The last step is to spread the word. Remind your friends, family, neighbors and especially people have not voted before. This is the time to step up. Expanding the number of people voting expands our democracy as well as civic engagement. This helps our community improve the quality of life here.

You can find everything you need to know at the link to the Minnesota Secretary of State's office, including where and when you can vote. You can even track your ballot after it is submitted:

Remember that Minnesota remains unique when it comes to elections and government. It's our higher than the national average turnout during elections and the fact that we have so many competitive districts. It makes every everyone's vote count.

Do your research, vote in the primaries and in November. Be a voter.