Oregon may join as many as 21 other states in the rush to hold a presidential primary next Feb. 5.

And while we have reservations about shifting this state's presidential contest from May to February, we believe it's better to join the stampede than be left in the dust.

When it comes to presidential politics, Oregonians have been in a state of irrelevancy for years. By the time Oregon's regular primary comes around on the third Tuesday of May, a handful of other states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina already have decided who the Democratic and Republican nominees will be.

It's frustrating for Oregon voters to have no input into the nomination process. That's why the Legislature is considering a bill that would create a separate presidential primary on Feb. 5, which is the same date California recently chose for its primary.

Six other states also will hold primaries on Feb. 5, while Oregon and 14 other states are contemplating that date.

But splitting Oregon's presidential primary from its regular primary and moving it up three months isn't the ideal solution.

This state still will be overshadowed by larger states also voting for president on Feb. 5. Presidential candidates may not pay much more attention to Oregon than they do now.

But the change would accomplish one highly worthy goal - it would make our votes count.

And under Oregon's vote-by-mail system, this state actually would become one of the first in the nation to start casting presidential ballots.

The $2 million to $3 million cost of holding a separate primary isn't insignificant. We believe, however, that it would be money well spent if it allows Oregonians to participate in a presidential primary that actually has meaning.

Perhaps the nation eventually will adopt a better way of choosing presidential nominees. The National Association of Secretaries of State is working toward a system of regional primaries for 2012.

But until that day comes, Oregonians deserve the chance to be relevant. And we believe it's worth some tax dollars to make Oregon's presidential votes something more than an empty gesture.

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