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Editorial: Cast informed votes on Tuesday

Anyone who ventures outside their house for even a short period of time should be aware that there’s an election coming up. The signs are everywhere.

On Tuesday people will have the opportunity to decide who represents them in municipal government, school boards and county offices. There’s no denying that a lot of these races don’t seem terribly exciting at a glance. As a result, some may be tempted to sit this one out and wait until next year’s more highly publicized races for governor and U.S. House and Senate seats. That would be a mistake. Decisions made on the local level generally have a far more significant impact on our day-to-day lives than anything that happens in Washington or Harrisburg. For one example, look at the debates involving municipal government in communities where controversial development proposals are being considered.

Our standard plea for more participation in so-called off-year elections may not be as badly needed this year as it usually is. Considering what’s been going on at many school board meetings over the last few months, the importance of those positions should be readily apparent to anyone paying attention. Disagreement over policies concerning COVID-19 mitigation, racial equity and curriculum, among others, have led to large crowds and fierce debate at school board meetings that ordinarily are rather sedate. People have a chance to make their voices heard in the most polite and effective manner.

While we’re pleased at the likelihood of more participation in this election, we find it regrettable that our ugly national political debate is finding its way into elections that are supposed to be nonpartisan. School board candidates are allowed to crossfile and run on both parties’ tickets because it’s presumed that management of schools has nothing to do with politics. It’s sad to see that’s no longer the case.

Having said that, crossfiled school board candidates serve as a reminder that it would be foolish to vote based solely on party affiliation without further research. Some candidates on the Republican ticket may be registered Democrats and vice-versa. And many elected offices in county and municipal government involve managing and performing certain tasks that have absolutely nothing to do with political ideology.

State lawmakers did the right thing by eliminating the option of automatic straight-ticket voting, forcing people to pause at least for a moment before deciding each race. Check out our newspaper’s online voter’s guide and other sources of information to find out about each candidate’s views and qualifications before casting your ballot.

Remember to give careful consideration to state judicial races on the ballot as well. What we just said about local races applies to Pennsylvania’s courts as well, including the fact that their decisions have been very much in the spotlight in recent times, even if most voters aren’t familiar with the judges’ names.

Voting in judicial races is especially tricky because the candidates tend to run on their background and experience rather than stating their positions on issues. Judges on the campaign trail are not supposed to say how they would rule in any particular case.

Nevertheless, we do encourage readers to learn more about judicial candidates rather than reflexively casting a vote based on political party. The Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Judicial Evaluation Commission offers recommendations on each candidate’s qualifications for the job along with biographical material. It’s an excellent tool for casting an informed vote.

It’s understandable that many people feel rather exhausted by politics after the tumultuous 2020 election and the ongoing disputes that followed it. But when important decisions are made at your local school or municipal board, folks who sat out this election may well regret not taking the opportunity to have their say in races that can be decided by a handful of votes.

We urge readers to come out Tuesday and cast informed votes on these races that matter so much.

Source: Berkshire mont

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