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Early voter turnout in Albany disappointing

EDITORIAL: Ward II and III Albany city races draw 2 percent early voter turnout

We’ve all seen the routine where the comedian is tossing one-liners to a yawning audience and, in desperation, thumps the microphone, asking, “Hey, is this thing on?”

But given the underwhelming early turnout of voters over the past three weeks, some very earnest Albany City Commission candidates have to be asking themselves if the election is truly on.

The short answer: Yes it is. On Tuesday, voters in Albany’s Wards II and III make decisions that they will live with for the next four years starting in January — the commissioners who will represent those wards in the city government.

To recap the candidates, in Ward II Commissioner Ivey Hines is seeking re-election. He is being challenged by candidates Demetrius Love and Bobby Coleman.

In Ward III, Commissioner Christopher Pike is running for re-election. He is being challenged by two candidates as well: B.J. Fletcher and Cheryl Calhoun.

And come January, two of those six candidates will begin four-year terms on the City Commission.

That’s more important than some might think. Those two votes held by the two winners constitute 50 percent of what is needed — four votes — to get anything done on the commission, which comprises six commissioners and the mayor.

The two people elected will have a great deal to say over those four years about what projects and progress occur in their respective wards. They will be called upon to make important decisions that will affect the lives, on some level, of every resident of Albany.

These are not trivial decisions that will be made at the polling booths.

So far, however, there isn’t much interest in the two races. When early voting closed Friday, a total of 181 voters out of 11,801 who are eligible to vote in the two wards had cast ballots during the three-week period. Another 58 voters in Wards II and III had submitted absentee ballots.

Those 239 votes represent a minuscule percentage of the voting power of the two awards — about 2.02 percent. That’s a low early-voting turnout by any standard and could be a precursor to a turnout of 15 percent or less for the two wards. If that were to happen, it would mean that for every 100 voters in the two awards, a mere 15 were making a four-year decision for the other 85.

That would be a shame.

That the turnout would be low was something that was expected. These are the only two races on the ballot, which means they’re being decided in a year in which there is no presidential, gubernatorial, school board or any other type of contest to generate more interest. It’s a year when an election — even an important one — can be easily overlooked.

We hope that the voters in Wards II and III are just traditionalists who like to head out to the precincts on Election Day, when the 10 polling stations in the wards will be open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. We hope that voters in the two wards appreciate the right they have to decide who governs them and will exercise that right.

If ever there has been a situation where one vote can be the deciding factor in an election, this one is it for Albany. Don’t let someone else make the decision for you.

The Albany Herald Editorial Board