At first glance, less-dedicated voters might be tempted to sit this one out.

Tuesday's ballot is not exactly littered with propositions of significance to the North Coast. Statewide measures include:

?Four proposals to increase gambling on tribal land so far away from here that the operators of our local casinos don't seem to be bothering to weigh in on the issues.

?A confusing term-limits initiative for state legislators that would either shorten or lengthen potential tenures, depending on the status of a particular politico.

?A transportation-funding measure that even supporters now say is unneeded.

True, a measure to lower community college fees has local significance, although not necessarily enough to line 'em up at Del Norte County's 18 polling places.

But remember, this is also a presidential primary, and California is the biggest of many prizes to be won around the country on Super Tuesday.

And this time, it matters. Traditionally held in June or, starting in 1996, in March, the California primary has usually been held too late to affect the battles for the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations. You have to go all the way back to 1972 for a result that truly made a difference, when Californians gave anti-war candidate George McGovern a huge boost with a victory over Hubert Humphrey.

Since then, California primary voters have settled for making occasional statements after the nominations were already sewed up, such as in 1976 when Gov. Ronald Reagan swamped President Ford 65-35 percent, in 1986 when Sen. Edward Kennedy won over President Carter, and in 1992 when former Gov. Jerry Brown came close to putting a bump in the path of a political steamroller named Bill Clinton.

Neither major-party nomination is sewed up this year, and by again moving up its presidential primary date, California is finally back in the thick of things. Will Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton emerge as the Democratic frontrunner? Will Mitt Romney blunt the momentum of John McCain in the Republican race?

If you voted early by mail ballot, you may be disappointed to find that your preferred candidate has already dropped out of the race. If you haven't voted yet, Tuesday brings a chance to play a part in history that shouldn't be missed.

The Daily Triplicate