- Associated Press - Monday, February 29, 2016

BOSTON (AP) - Massachusetts voters will face stark choices when they cast ballots in the state’s presidential primaries.

Voters who pull Republican primary ballots will pick between the five remaining candidates - Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Ben Carson. The Democratic race features a much tighter contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Some details about Tuesday’s Massachusetts primary:

STATE IN PLAY

Both Democrat candidates campaigned in Massachusetts on Monday - just one indication of how important the state is, particularly to Sanders.

With Clinton expected to win many of the Southern states voting on Super Tuesday, Sanders needs to perform well in northeastern states like Massachusetts and his home state of Vermont.

While Clinton handily defeated then-Sen. Barack Obama decisively in Massachusetts in 2008, polls have shown a much tighter race with Sanders.

On the Republican side, only Kasich spent time campaigning in Massachusetts on Monday.

Polls show Trump with a hefty lead in the state, but Kasich is hoping for a strong second-place finish to bolster his case as the main alternative to Trump.

Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin said he expects a much higher turnout on the Republican side than in recent GOP presidential primaries, which he attributed to intense interest.

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DELEGATE COUNT

Tuesday’s primaries are as much about rounding up delegates as winning individual states.

For Republicans, Massachusetts - with 42 delegates - is one of Tuesday’s more modest hauls, well behind Texas, with 155 delegates, but ahead of Vermont, with just 16 delegates.

Because Massachusetts is a proportional state - as opposed to winner-take-all - multiple candidates will likely receive delegates, with all 42 GOP delegates awarded based on the primary tally.

For Democrats, the rules are a bit more complicated.

Massachusetts has 116 Democratic delegates. Of those, 25 are superdelegates free to back whichever candidate they want. At least 17 already have pledged support to Clinton and one is backing Sanders, according to an Associated Press survey.

The remaining 91 Democratic delegates will be decided by voters.

Massachusetts is one of Tuesday’s top prizes for Democrats, tied with Georgia with its 116 delegates, and second only to Texas with 252 delegates.

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CHANGING VOTER PROFILE

Massachusetts is typically seen as solidly Democratic - with the party holding every seat in the state’s congressional delegation and overwhelming majorities in the Massachusetts House and Senate.

That’s only part of the story.

Over the past few decades, there has been a steady stream of voters leaving both political parties in Massachusetts.

The change has been most dramatic for Democrats.

Nearly 20,000 residents have left the Democratic ranks since the start of the year, says Secretary of State William Galvin, a Democrat. Most switched their registration status to unenrolled, while others became Republicans.

More than 53 percent of the state’s 4.2 million registered voters are not enrolled in either party. Just under 35 percent are registered Democrats and fewer than 12 percent are enrolled in the GOP.

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POLLING HOURS

Polling hours in most cities and towns in Massachusetts are from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Under Massachusetts election laws, voters who are enrolled as Democrats must pull Democratic primary ballots while voters enrolled as Republicans can only pull Republican ballots.

The majority of voters in Massachusetts who aren’t enrolled in any political party can pull either ballot.

Voters interested in finding their polling place or previewing ballots online can visit the state’s Elections Divisions website.

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Online: https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/eleidx.htm


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