Great for democracy

Published 9:47 pm Thursday, October 23, 2014

Two things have taken place in Suffolk during this year’s election season that are great for democracy.

The first of those things is the fact that there are competitors running against each other in six of the nine different local races Suffolk voters will see on their ballots come Election Day. In other words, two-thirds of the offices that are up for election this year feature choices.

There are few things more harmful to democracy at the local level than long ballots featuring one office after another for which only the incumbents are running. Such ballots discourage voters from participating in the process, which, in turn, encourages them to subscribe to the trope of separate classes for politicians and the average citizen. And in the long run, given enough elections without choices, the trope starts to look pretty real.

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Another of the best ways to counter that slippery slope of despotism is with an informed electorate. Voters who understand not just the issues but also the positions their various candidates take on those issues prove much harder to manipulate than their low-information neighbors.

In Suffolk this year, voters have had more chances than ever in recent memory to learn what their candidates have to say about the important matters facing the city. From the NAACP to the Chamber of Commerce to various civic leagues in the competitive voting boroughs around Suffolk this year, potential voters have been (and will be) treated to an array of candidate forums and debates.

Candidates have been profiled on the pages of this newspaper, and those profiles will continue Sunday and Wednesday. And, starting today and continuing through next Thursday, candidates have been given the opportunity to describe in their own words why voters should support them Nov. 4.

With all that information available, there will be no good reason for voters to step into the poll booths on Election Day and make anything other than confident, well-informed choices for qualified candidates — whether they are incumbents or challengers.

That’s great for democracy.