Daily Herald opinion: Don’t sit out the March 19 primary — too much is at stake

At first glance, the March 19 primary in Illinois might not look that exciting.

Unless Republican Nikki Haley manages to hold on another month or Democrat Dean Phillips pulls off a miraculous surge, the choices for president — despite other names on your ballot — will likely be down to President Joe Biden on the Democratic side and former President Donald Trump on the Republican.

Our U.S. senators are not up for reelection this year, and many congressional districts and state house seats won’t see challenges until November.

Still, skipping the primary would be a mistake and, in some cases, a potentially costly one.

First off, there are heated battles in a few congressional districts, with Democratic challengers looking to unseat their party’s incumbents and eager Republicans hoping to recapture what was once GOP territory.

Consider the 11th District, where Democratic incumbent Bill Foster faces a primary challenge from Qasim Rashid in a race that has largely focused on campaign financing and policies in the Middle East. Voters in that district pulling a Republican ballot will pick among Jerry Evans, Susan Hathaway-Altman and Kent Mercado, all presenting starkly different visions than the two Democrats.

Other party battles are shaping up in the 4th, 6th and 14th districts.

With the balance of power in the U.S. House at stake and massive foreign and domestic decisions in play, choosing the best candidate to represent your party or political views in November should be a priority.

County positions are also up for grabs. One of the more high-profile is the Cook County State’s Attorney’s race. Retired Illinois Appellate Court Judge Eileen O’Neill Burke and Cook County prosecutor Clayton Harris III are facing off in the Democratic primary to replace the controversial Kim Foxx. If you live in Cook County, you should weigh in on her successor.

Referendums are another pressing reason to cast your vote. Tax questions await voters in Glenbard High School District 87, Fenton High School District 100, Central Unit District 301, Roselle Park District and other places. Doing your homework will help you decide which projects you support and whether you are willing to pay for them.

Plus, these ballot questions can be decided by just a handful of votes, especially when turnout is low. If you are not among them, you have no right to complain about the fallout later.

As of today, some early voting is available in Cook, Lake, DuPage, Kane, Will and McHenry counties. Hours and locations differ, but county websites spell out your options. Expanded early voting begins on Monday, March 4. Or, you can wait until March 19, head to your polling place and proudly wear your “I voted” sticker home.

The outcome of this election and the general in November will have major repercussions on our communities, our nation and our world. Now is the time to have your say.

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