We hope every eligible voter casts a ballot on or before Election Day this Tuesday.

If you’re not sure whether you’re eligible or where to vote, we have confidence in the Albany County Clerk’s office to help voters figure that out. Ballots can still be cast early at the Albany County Courthouse Vote Center on the east side of the building and polling places will have election judges ready to help you participate. Public servants and volunteers step up to help support the election effort, and we are grateful for their commitment to the process.

We understand it can be difficult to select candidates without speaking to them personally, but don’t let that dissuade you from voting. And it doesn’t invalidate your ballot if you don’t vote for anyone in a particular race; it is best to cast a vote for someone whose positions are something you are familiar with rather than just guessing. Each voter must decide whether incumbents or challengers offer the best chance to break the current adherence to party over service to their constituents. This may result in a vote for an overwhelming underdog, but at least it sends a message.

There are resources available to those unsure of which candidates to choose, including the Laramie Boomerang and League of Women Voters General Election Voter Guide. It’s available at various locations around the city, including the Boomerang office at 320 E. Grand Ave. and at www.laramieboomerang.com.

We thank the League and similar organizations, as well as the political parties, for their efforts in informing voters. It’s also important to highlight the work of initiatives such as Pokes Vote, which has gone to considerable lengths to involve the younger demographic which sadly tends to turn out in lower numbers, especially in midterm years.

While early voting numbers in Albany County have increased this year compared to the 2016 election, the Boomerang reported that absentee ballot requests have slightly declined. We think that probably shows the success of our Vote Center; many who would have otherwise cast absentee ballots are finding it convenient to vote in person. We hope the state continues looking at ways to increase participation, including the consideration of mail-in ballots, a process that builds on the integrity already in place for absentee voting.

It might be cliché, but we do think those who do not vote give up their right to complain about the decisions that affect our community. If you want to make legitimate criticisms of public officials in the next two to four years, get off your duff on Election Day.

Voting is more than a right and a privilege. It really is a duty to the community and is also a courtesy earned by candidates who have put themselves on the line by running for office. Not all of us are able or inclined to serve as a candidate and voting shows our appreciation for those who step forward. Voting helps encourage potential candidates to run in the future and anything that helps recruit good candidates benefits us all.

While much election excitement often tends to focus on statewide and national races, local races have a more immediate impact on community members which makes each individual’s vote valuable. And those local races can be decided by very small margins.

When it comes to local races, it was distressing to us to see candidates withdraw from the election following the primary. Having candidates listed on the ballot who subsequently decide not to run is confusing to voters. In addition, the Elections Department has a tight schedule for printing all the many ballots distributed across the county and sent out to people requesting absentee ballots. Changes like this leave staff with little time to get a notice out or reprint ballots. It also denies other candidates who received fewer votes during the primary a chance to move forward to the general election. We think it might be reasonable for state lawmakers to consider a monetary penalty for withdrawing from a race to discourage frivolous candidacies that waste public employees’ and voters’ time in the future. Those parties, as well as serious candidates, put too much into the process for things to be thrown up in the air when it’s down to the wire.

It’s easy to take for granted our American experiment that’s inspired the world at times, but we as citizens need to reinforce how important our institutions are by exercising our civic duty. We are hoping for a robust turnout this week as these processes truly do chart the course of our future. It might seem dramatic to say these institutions are in peril, but a sure way to make that an eventual reality is to sit this one out. Go vote on or before Tuesday.

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