Virginia voters prepare for Super Tuesday

Tuesday will be one of the most significant days on the 2016 presidential campaign calendar, and Virginia will be in the middle of the action.

The state will join 11 others on Super Tuesday, the day when the largest number of presidential delegates will be awarded to Democratic and Republican candidates.

Republicans will be choosing 595 delegates – about 25 percent of the total number. The Democratic contests will have 1,004 delegates at stake out of 2,383 needed to win the party’s nomination.

The presidential primary will be the only contest on the ballot in Virginia. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m.

Voters arriving at the polling places are required to present a government issued photo. They will then be asked whether they want a Democratic or Republican ballot and choose one of the presidential candidates listed on their chosen ballot.

The Republicans who have survived the winnowing process so far are business executive Donald Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson.

Some of the candidates whose names appear on the ballot have suspended their campaigns, but they did not file the official paperwork for discontinuing their campaigns.

As a result, the names of Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Mike Huckabee, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Rick Santorum, all of whom met their political demise weeks ago, will remain on the Republican ballot. Graham is the only candidate to have officially withdrawn in Virginia, but ballots had already been printed by the time election officials received his withdrawal letter.

Among the three Democrats on the ballot, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders are the only candidates remaining. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has scrapped his campaign.

Earlier this year, the state’s Republican Party became embroiled in a controversy over whether voters in the GOP primary would be required to sign a statement declaring their party affiliation. Party leaders reconsidered after Trump supporters protested the requirements.

Lisa McDonald, voter registrar for Shenandoah County, said the requirement was called a “statement of affirmation” of party loyalty.

“That is gone,” McDonald said. “They initially had that, and now it is gone.”

McDonald added that anyone voting in the Republican or Democratic primary is free to vote for the other party’s presidential nominee in the November general election.

“Voting in the primary will not register you with that party,” McDonald said, adding that election officials will only “know which election you participated in, not which candidate you voted for.”

In other words, McDonald said, the rules for voting will be the same as a general election, except the voters will have to choose a Democratic or Republican ballot. There will be no independent or write-in candidacies.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or