What’s a delegate? Can I do curbside voting? Super Tuesday finally arrives in Virginia

In this Getty file photo, a voter casts her ballot in Virginia during Super Tuesday 2016.
In this Getty file photo, a voter casts her ballot in Virginia during Super Tuesday 2016. (2016 Getty Images)

Super Tuesday has arrived in the state of Virginia: Are you ready to cast a ballot?

If you haven’t confirmed your polling place or finalized a decision regarding who will earn your votes, you’ve come to the right place.

Let’s break it all down.

The contenders

When it comes to the race for the presidential nomination, which is the only thing we’re voting on this Super Tuesday, five Democrats are competing: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Hawaiian congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Read up: Where do those candidates stand?

At one point, the field was much bigger. The following people have since dropped out of the race: Cory Booker, Julián Castro, Marianne Williamson, Michael Bennet, Deval Patrick, Andrew Yang, Tom Steyer, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar.

The numbers

But this Super Tuesday, 1,357 total delegates are up for grabs between the 14 states hosting primaries. (It’s also worth noting that American Samoa and Democrats Abroad will hold caucuses).

Virginia has 99 delegates at stake. That’s the fourth-largest number of the day.

California leads with 415 delegates, Texas comes in at 228 and North Carolina rounds out the top three states with 110 delegates.

A candidate needs 1,991 delegates to secure the nomination. We’ll break dow why that matters.

“Candidates are competing for about a third of the overall delegates at stake,” Vox reported in an online feature, Super Tuesday, Explained. “Those ... delegates allocated on Super Tuesday could effectively settle the race, if one candidate locks down a gigantic lead that will be nearly impossible for anyone else to overcome.”

The reporter said the candidate with the best chance of doing that is Sanders.

It is, however, important to point out, just in case your head is spinning and you’re thinking back to our last presidential election: Delegates and electoral votes are not the same thing. Read more about that and how things work in Virginia.

It’s likely multiple candidates will receive delegates this Super Tuesday -- so where do we go from there? How does that work? Check it out.

And go vote! No matter who you are, politically.

Virginia has an open primary, so regardless of how you’re registered, party-wise, you can enter a ballot; as long as you’re a registered voter, of course.

Not sure where to go? We think you’ll find the Virginia Department of Election’s Citizen Portal immensely helpful.

Through this website, you can access your state voter record, update your registration, apply to vote absentee (well, for next time), and view your polling place, election district, absentee ballot status and voting history.

The state makes it easy. That said ...

Pay attention.

Remember all those names we listed earlier, of the five current presidential nomination contenders and all the others who have ended their campaigns?

You’ll still see all those names on the ballot -- yes, all 14 of them.

So it’s important to make your vote count. You don’t want to throw it away on someone no longer in the race.

What do you need?

  • To have registered to vote at least 22 days before the election.
  • A photo ID will make the process much faster and easier. Here’s a list of acceptable forms.*
  • To be in line by 7 p.m.
  • *If you arrive at your polling place without an acceptable form of photo ID, you’ll be given the chance to cast a provisional ballot. Read more about what that entails.

You have no excuse.

Did you realize curbside voting might even be an option for you?

If you or someone you know is older, physically disabled or who needs help with the voting forms, Virginia provides some assistance, according to this state elections website.

Ask an election official or bring your own helper, just know that assistance is available “at any stage of the voting process.”

If you’re age 65 or older, or disabled, you might not even have to leave your car. You do have to bring your own helper to enter the polling place and flag an election officer.

Fun fact: The term “Super Tuesday” was used as early as the 1976 primary to refer to the California, Ohio and New Jersey nominating contests held in June, according to NBC News, adding that Super Tuesday as we know it today did not come to be until 1988.

OK then: Get out there and do your civic duty. And if you need a voter’s guide, here’s something for you to check out next. Happy voting!

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