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Electing to participate

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Voter turnout for primaries is traditionally low in the north country, and the Sept. 10 election was no exception.

Turnout to choose the Watertown City Council candidates for the general election was unfortunately weak. There were six candidates running for four spots, the highest number of council prospects in more than a decade.

But despite the great interest shown on the part of residents wishing to serve on the City Council, only about 12 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the nonpartisan election. People who are eligible to vote but chose not to missed a real opportunity to have their voice heard on who will advance to the general election Nov. 5.

There was more interest in some partisan races in Northern New York. There were 453 voters out of 1198 registered Republicans who participated in the GOP primary in Alexandria Bay (38 percent), while 505 voters out of 911 registered Republicans (55 percent) cast ballots in the GOP primary in Cape Vincent.

Many people declare that those who choose not to vote have no standing to gripe about how their governments are run. While that’s a laudable sentiment, it’s simply not true. Citizens do not forfeit one constitutional right based solely on the fact that they decide not to exercise another.

Participating in elections, however, is crucial in maintaining the vitality of our representative form of government. To have such a small portion of people making decisions for an entire population is maddening.

There are those who believe voting isn’t worth their time because they don’t like any of the candidates. That may be true, but some of those candidates will hold elective office. We all need to have a say in who governs our communities.

The deadline to register to vote in the general election is coming up soon.

Applications sent through the mail must be postmarked by Oct. 11, and a board of elections must receive it by Oct. 16. In-person applications must be completed at a board of elections by Oct. 11. People who have been honorably discharged or become naturalized citizens since Oct. 11 may register at a board of elections by Oct. 25.

To help increase participation in the upcoming general election, the League of Women Voters will host the National Voter Registration Day this Tuesday. LWV members are stressing the importance of being an integral part of the electoral process by reminding everyone of when they need to have their applications prepared.

“This may not be a presidential election year, but millions of Americans will still vote in important elections this November. Nationwide, more than 15,000 races and ballot initiatives will be decided this year,” according to a news release issued by the LWV on its National Voter Registration Day event. “These races are about jobs, economic security, the environment, health care and our communities. National Voter Registration Day is the perfect time to register for the first time, update your voter registration if you have moved, or ask your friends and family to make sure they’re registered.

“Voter registration is the key to getting Americans participating in the political process. While close to 75 percent of Americans who are registered to vote make it to the polls in major election years, close to one in four eligible Americans is not registered to vote,” the release said. “This includes disproportionate numbers of young Americans, minorities, low-income Americans and those who have recently moved. Imagine what our elections and country might look like if every single eligible American was registered to vote and voted.”

It’s good to have groups like the LWV spreading the word about the importance of voting in elections and the need to register to vote. Visit the group’s election website at www.vote411.org for more information.

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