Minnesotans savor every minute of summer. We are feverishly out and about – boating, swimming, fishing, hiking, biking – you name it, we do it — with great pleasure and enthusiasm. These beautiful sun-filled days will be gone before we know it, we must enjoy now.

It is a challenge to step away from the dock or the pool to prepare for the Tuesday, Aug. 14, primary election. Do you really want to spend time reading through Voters Guides, watching television interviews and vetting the candidates on issues you care the most about?

Yes, you should. We should all carve out some time to make informed choices on this year’s primary ballot and vote.

In some years, our late summer primary is very low key. That is not the case this year. Several very important statewide contests deserve everyone’s attention. Two well-known men are running for the Republican spot on the November ballot for governor: Jeff Johnson and Tim Pawlenty. Three top DFL officials are running for governor in a tight race: Tim Walz, Erin Murphy and Lori Swanson. Those races alone should bring out voters throughout the state.

Other races are also high profile, such as the U.S. Senate seat now held by Tina Smith. She has five challengers on the DFL ballot: Richard Painter, Ali Chehem Ali, Christopher Seymore, Nick Leonard and Gregg Iverson. Same goes for the DFL spot for attorney general. That contest includes Keith Ellison, Debra Hilstrom, Mike Rothman, Matt Pelikan and Tom Foley.

The Republican side of the ballot also has several races with multiple candidates – four for U.S. Senate (Jim Newberger, Merrill Anderson, Rocky De La Fuente and Rae Hart Anderson) and three for the U.S. Senate special election (Karin Housley, Bob Anderson and Nikolay Bey). There’s also three for attorney general: Robert Lessard, Sharon Anderson and Doug Wardlow.

While the statewide races get the most attention, most of us also have important local races. Many cities, school boards and most counties have one or more contested position on the nonpartisan ballot. Some Congressional districts have heated competition, especially the 1st, 5th and 8th, where the incumbents are not seeking re-election.

These races have received extensive news coverage in our publications and other media, so it is not difficult to learn about these candidates.

It’s also OK to admit you just aren’t sure how a primary works. The easiest step to take is to go to the Secretary of State’s website and download a sample ballot. You type in your home address and you see a ballot that shows the state and federal offices that you will see on your own ballot. (Go to www.sos.state.mn.us, then to “Elections & Voting,” then to “What’s on My Ballot?”)

Also, remember you can vote ONLY on the Republican ticket or the DFL ticket, but you can’t cross over and vote on both sides. Your city and county races will be on the nonpartisan portion of the ballot, available to all voters.

  And this year more than ever, you can’t use the excuse, “I’m out of town on Election Day.” Casting an absentee ballot or early voting is very easy. You can vote any day from now through Aug. 14. County offices throughout the state accept in-person voting. Many cities and townships also offer open voting Saturday, Aug. 11, and Monday, Aug. 13, in addition to full hours (7 a.m. to 8 p.m.) on Tuesday. Check with your city hall or county courthouse for specifics.

This primary election is very important to both parties. With Gov. Mark Dayton leaving the post after eight years, voters will set up a crucial contest for the November general election. The Senate races and state constitutional officer races are also consequential.

So enjoy your biking and hiking and swimming and boating – but make sure that voting is also on your August to-do list. Make your voice heard in this very significant election that will help chart the course of Minnesota’s future.

- An opinion of the Adams Publishing – ECM Editorial Board. Reactions welcome. Send to: editorial.board@ecm-inc.com.

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