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posted: 4/8/2013 5:00 AM

Editorial: Local elections and democracy close to the bone

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All right, time really is running out now.

Last week, we emphasized the options available for voting in local elections prior to the official Election Day. Now, the access to those options has passed. But the great Election Day tradition remains to cast your ballot at your local polling place Tuesday.

That is hardly, of course, an onerous prospect. The polls open at 6 a.m. and will remain open for 13 hours thereafter. Thanks to the advent of early voting and the unfortunate trend of low turnout for local elections, the lines will be short. If completing your ballot takes more than 10 minutes, it could only be because you ran into a friend or neighbor before entering the booth and took some time to visit. And, should that happen, it will only add a pleasant communal touch to an act that by its nature provides a sense of pride and accomplishment. It will enhance the peculiar satisfaction that comes from knowing you are participating actively in the evolution of your community.

The ease of the process and the warm and fuzzy feelings that attend it are legitimate reasons for voting, to be sure, but it's also important to remember the serious consequences of not voting. The demands of the polls may be simple, but the stakes are high.

Higher in many ways than those of more visible elections for state or national office. The people elected to municipal, school, park, library and townships offices Tuesday will constitute your most-direct link to the management of your tax dollars. They will determine what kinds of businesses come into your town, and where those businesses will locate. They will determine what kinds of recreational opportunities you and your children will have and the depth and quality of resources available to you for study, research and entertainment. They will control the access you and your children have to the best teachers, school books and educational facilities.

We often think of the appeal of democracy with the lofty imagery of the Founding Fathers railing against the tyranny of King George or the strains of the Statue of Liberty's call for the teeming masses yearning to breathe free. But, in fact, self-government is not always so romantic. It most often and most directly takes place in sparsely attended meeting rooms at local schools and village halls, overseen not by passionate generals and gold-throated orators but by earnest and well-meaning laborers, teachers, business people and stay-at-home moms and dads.

Tuesday is your last chance in this cycle to participate in democracy so vital, so hardworking and so close to the bone. If you need more information, you can check out questionnaires, stories, videos and our endorsements of candidates through our election guide online at You still have time to generate that warm and fuzzy feeling of playing an active role in the future of your community -- and maybe even to share it with a neighbor or old friend at the polling place. Don't let it run out.

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