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Editorial: Narrowing the field

Today might qualify as the most important election day nobody knows about. The primary election for both Republicans and Democrats is the first step in choosing the next senator from Massachusetts. So cast your ballots.

The winners go on to the June 25 general election. The winner then will serve until the next full-term vote in 2018.

Political analysts note this primary has struggled to win public attention in a shortened election season sparked by John Kerry stepping down to become secretary of state a year after he was re-elected.

The special election to fill the remainder of Kerry’s term is required by a 2004 law. It states that a special election must be held no sooner than 145 days no later than 160 days after the seat becomes vacant. Previously, unexpired terms were filled by a governor’s appointment.

That means voters rightfully have a say in who will carry the mantle of incumbency in the next regular election. But it can be hard to get voters to pay attention.

The deadline to register to vote in this election has passed, so if you aren’t registered, it’s too late. If you’re not sure about your status, it’s worth a trip to the polls or a call to the registrar’s office in your community to find out.

Since it is a primary election, registered Democrats will receive the Democratic ballot, which contains the names of two current members of the U.S. House of Representatives: Stephen F. Lynch, 55, of South Boston, who represents the 8th Congressional District and Edward J. Markey, 66, of Malden, who represents 5th Congressional District and is the longest-serving member of the house from the New England states.

Registered Republicans have three candidates to choose from: Gabriel E. Gomez, 47, a private equity investor from Cohasset; Michael J. Sullivan, 58, of Abington, the acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and a former state and federal prosecutor and legislator; Daniel B. Winslow, 54, of Norfolk, a state representative, former judge and former lawyer for former Gov. Mitt Romney’s administration.

Registered voters who are not enrolled in either party may vote by choosing either of the party ballots.

State officials say the early voting numbers seen in the absentee ballots requested, which tend to predict voter turnout, are paltry.

In a Boston Globe article, Secretary of State William F. Galvin said the number of absentee ballots this year is about 25 percent of the number of absentee ballots for a special election in 2010, which he termed “abysmal.”

Today is the day polls are open, which means the electorate has a chance to prove those predictions wrong just by showing up. Voting booths are open in every community across the state from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. It is your turn.

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