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Primary importance

While yardsigns remain fairly sparse, election season is upon us. With most of the attention focusing on the presidential race that will be decided in November, it is easy to overlook local contests along the way.

We would encourage residents not to overlook any races, no matter how inconsequential they might appear. Elected officials, after all, are your direct representatives at all levels of government. Winners will be selected whether you vote or not -- so you might as well attempt to influence the outcome.

This year's primary election in Kansas is a little more than three weeks away. Primaries are utilized to whittle down the number of candidates representing the major political parties to one. The winners of this round of polls then square off in November's general election.

Primary elections usually do not offer many contested ballots. Nonetheless, they are important.

In Ellis County, for example, Republicans have only four races with more than one individual seeking office. Three precinct committee positions are up for grabs as well as the Kansas Senate 40th District seat, which features incumbent Ralph Ostmeyer of Grinnell being challenged by John Miller of Norton. On the Democratic side, only the 2nd District of the Ellis County Commission is contested with Alan Gabel and Dennis Pfannenstiel both seeking to replace the departing Glenn Diehl.

Precinct committee people assist in the functionality of parties at the local level. Both the Senate and County Commission seats have direct influence regarding your daily life. Although the winners of those two races will face opposition in the fall, it is important to get the best individuals advancing each step of the way.

This Tuesday is the last day residents have to register to vote in the primary election. Requirements for registering are few, but inflexible. Individuals must:

* Be a U.S. citizen and a resident of the State of Kansas;

* Have abandoned your former residence and/or name;

* Have reached the age of 18 before the next statewide general election; and

* Have your civil rights restored if convicted of a felony.

Tuesday also is the last day already registered voters can change party affiliation. Even unaffiliated voters should pay attention to this as rules differ depending on party. The Democratic Party in Kansas allows unaffiliated persons to vote its ticket. The Kansas Republican Party, on the other hand, only allows registered party members to pick up its ballot. It is possible for unaffiliated voters to declare themselves Republicans and sign up at the polling place, but the more expedient fashion would be to do it beforehand.

Other key dates for Kansas voters to be mindful of for the primary election include July 31, the latest advance voting in person must begin; Aug. 3, the last day voters can apply for advance ballots to be mailed; and Aug. 6, when noon marks the deadline to vote regular advance ballots in person. And then, of course, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 7, polls will be open.

Take part in the process. Satisfaction levels with government are running low, as are voter turnout rates. We can't help but think the two are related.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net