Your duty calls [Editorial]

Tuesday is Primary Election Day.

That doesn’t mean much, unfortunately, for too many people. Participation in primary elections in non-presidential election years is always generally poor. And 2018 is one of those years.

This is an important election year in Maryland as our state chooses its next governor. But with a popular incumbent in Gov. Larry Hogan seeking re-election against the survivor of a group of lesser-known candidates seeking the Democratic nomination, that race has yet to spark enthusiasm among the electorate.

In Harford, there are several races that can directly impact the lives of many of those who live in the county. It’s important that people have their say in those races, especially in the primary elections that have long settled many races in Harford County.

For generations, Harford County was a Democratic county. At least that’s how the voters and, more importantly, the candidates registered.

In presidential elections, the county electorate always belied its party affiliation, going with the Republican presidential candidate even when the number of Democratic voters registered outnumbered Republicans by more than 2 to 1.

Locally, Democratic candidates who won the primary were most often elected because Republicans couldn’t muster candidates for many races.

Some years back, the tide began to turn and Harford slowly began making the transition to a Republican county. In the latest registration numbers, there are 179,493 registered voters in Harford County.

Of that number, there are 77,397 registered Republicans and 64,210 registered Democrats marking quite a turnaround from when Democrats ruled Harford County. There are also another 35,034 voters unaffiliated with either major party and another 800 or so belonging to one of the minor parties.

That’s a lot of voters, way too many of whom don’t vote.

Through the first five days of the early voting period that ended Thursday evening, fewer than 5,000 voters cast ballots.

Kevin Keene, Harford County’s elections director, said the turnout was “a little low” during the first five days, although it picked up on Tuesday and Wednesday when another 2,000-plus Republicans and Democrats voted. (This editorial went to press before Thursday’s final day figures were available.)

Keene pointed out, as we always do at this time, that the local races on the ballot for offices such as county executive, County Council, sheriff and state’s attorney have a far greater impact on the daily lives of Harford County residents than do those at the federal level.

“These are the people that are in your community every day making decisions,” Keene said.

That’s a civics lesson lost on too many people.

In spite of the saying “All Politics Is Local,” most often associated with Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, the late longtime speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, local politics is what decides zoning matters and school funding and traffic laws and the like, not national politicians.

Election after election, we try to get that message out and convince people that it’s in their best interests to vote. In 2018, we’re doing it again.

It’s every American’s patriotic duty to vote.

Early voting has ended and traditional voting is all day Tuesday.

If you didn’t get an I Voted sticker during early voting, make sure you get one Tuesday. Some people around the world would die for such an opportunity and, for centuries, Americans have fought and died to protect our rights and freedoms, including the right to choose our leaders through free and open elections.

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