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Our View: Today's vote too important to skip

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It's only the primary, right? Wrong.

Yes, the primary election is today, but so is a special election.

Also, only a primary?

Nothing less than our local elected leadership and the future direction of our community are at stake in Duluth and in southern St. Louis County. It’s on us as voters today to get to our polling places and to decide the candidates we want to send through to Election Day on Nov. 5. It’s also on us to pick a new St. Louis County Board commissioner.

Today’s primaries are for Duluth mayor, two At Large seats on the Duluth City Council, and the Third District seat on the City Council.

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For mayor, incumbent Emily Larson is on the ballot with former aircraft mechanic Caleb Anderson, school-bus driver Corey Ford, Doris Queen Lavender, former Boy Scouts executive David Nolle, Jesse Peterson, Donald Raihala of Proctor, self-employed contractor John Socha, and military veteran Daniel Weatherly. Two advance to Election Day.

Four At Large City Council candidates will advance as a result of today’s voting. Incumbents Arik Forsman, an economic development professional for Minnesota Power, and Noah Hobbs, a lending director at One Roof Community Housing, are being challenged by Army veteran Stephen Abernethy, college student Mike Mayou, Gary-New Duluth business owner Derek Medved, cable-company employee Nathaniel Rankin, and Matthew William Stewart.

In the center-of-Duluth race to replace Councilor Em Westerlund, who didn’t seek another term, the candidates are community activist and radio-show host Henry Banks, county social worker Theresa O’Halloran-Johnson, and corporate trainer Roz Randorf. Two advance to Election Day.

Today’s special election for a representative of District 5 on the St. Louis County Board pits Hermantown Mayor Wayne Boucher and labor leader Keith Musolf. The district includes Hermantown, Proctor, and Rice Lake, as well as several Duluth-bordering townships. The seat opened when former Commissioner Pete Stauber was elected to Congress.

It’s a lot of candidates to consider, and there are important decisions to be made. None of us ought to be OK with leaving it to our neighbors or to other voters. We can recall that those who show up make the decisions. They’re the ones who run things. And we can show up. In droves.

Discouragingly, voter-turnout history suggests that won't happen. In the 1950s and 1960s, about a third of eligible voters went to the primary polls, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office. In 21st-century elections, single-digit-percentage turnouts have been the norm.

Encouragingly, though, early voting is bolstering numbers.

The day of the vote is critical, though. Don’t think it’s important? Remember that the right to cast ballots was paid for with blood shed on battlefields and has been protected with vigilance for generations. Remember that voting oughtn’t be looked at as a chore but as a privilege and a responsibility. It’s our duty as residents of this community. In far too much of the rest of the world citizens can only wish they had the opportunity.

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Polls are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. today. If you're not sure of your polling place, go to pollfinder.sos.state. mn.us to find it.

Yes, the widely held notion is that it's only a primary, even if there is also a special election. But every election is important. Every election has consequences. Isn’t that reason enough not to leave today's deciding to neighbors and other voters?

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