Independent? Maybe Not! Know Before You Vote March 1 in Presidential Primary

Photo: Voting in Belmont.

Belmont voters will cast their first ballot in 2016 Election Cycle on Tuesday, March 1 in the Presidential Primary Election. But just because you’re a registered voter doesn’t mean you can take any ballot that’s available.

Ellen Cushman, Belmont’s Town Clerk, reminds residents the deadline to register to vote in the Presidential Primary is Wednesday, Feb. 10. The Town Clerk’s office is open daily 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will remain open until 8 p.m. on Feb. 10  for walk-in voter registration.

Because March 1 is a primary election, a voter who is a member of one of the four Massachusetts political parties – Democratic, Republican, Green-Rainbow and United Independent Party – can only vote with that party’s ballot. A Democrat cannot take a Republican ballot, and a Republican cannot take a Democratic one.

Feb. 10 is also the deadline for registered voters who wish to change their party enrollment either to another party or to “unenrolled,” which is commonly referred to as “independent.”  This should not be confused with the United Independent Party (UIP); a party that will have ballots available but with no candidates printed on them. 

While “unenrolled” voters or voters enrolled in political designations – let’s say the Pirate or Pizza parties – can ask for any party ballot on Primary Day, voters registered in UIP will NOT be eligible to take a Democratic, Republican or Green-Rainbow ballot. 

And it’s likely some Belmont residents may have inadvertently joined UIP as nearly 50 voters are registered as members of this fairly obscure outfit. 

“With spirited contests in both parties, pervasive advertising and intense coverage in early primary states, some voters may want to vote for a candidate in a different party from the one they are registered in now,” said Cushman.

Residents who are United States citizens, reside in Massachusetts, and who will be at least 18 years old on or before March 1 are eligible to register to vote. Those meeting these qualifications who have a Massachusetts Driver’s License can submit their registration online. Those registering by mail should have their form hand-canceled by the Post Office to ensure it is postmarked before the deadline.

To find information about your current voter registration, visit the Massachusetts Secretary of State office or visit the Town Clerk’s web page, (and select Town Clerk/Elections: Register) to vote or check your voter status.


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