Voter turnout abysmal

Published 9:54 pm Thursday, June 14, 2012

It might seem a simplistic statement, but a participatory democracy only works well when there’s participation by the people.

Virginia voters got a taste of how the lack of participation affects the process during the primary elections held on Tuesday, when only a scant percentage — between 1 and 10 percent, depending on the district — of the commonwealth’s registered voters cast ballots. There was broad diversity in the candidates standing for their parties’ respective nominations, yet there were no surprises — at least locally — in any of the candidates who won the right to represent Democrats and Republicans in those races come November.

We make no judgment here about which candidates should or should not have won on Tuesday — the voters, or at least those few who took the time out of their day to head to the polls, spoke, and their word here is final. And it’s impossible to say whether things would have been different if 95 percent of the registered voters had cast ballots. The point is that Virginia’s citizens had ample opportunity to mold the November election on Tuesday, and the vast majority chose not to participate. Those who didn’t have little room to complain about the choices they have in November.

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From a different perspective, a representative democracy depends on the willingness of citizens to commit to standing for election. In that regard, Suffolk has distinguished itself this election season. With 13 different candidates who have filed to run for seven different local races, the ballots for mayor and most City Council and School Board seats will offer voters a variety of choices. That’s as it should be.

During the next few months, Suffolk citizens will have many opportunities to learn what sets the various candidates for local office apart from one another. It promises to be an interesting election season here in Suffolk, and we look forward to learning more about everyone who will appear on November’s ballot.