Our View: It’s the primary, but this election is no less important

June 2, 2014 

We like to think that those who read these pages don’t have to be reminded of the importance of voting. In fact, we’re certain many of you have already sent in your ballots.

But if it slipped your mind, then you need to visit your local polling place today and drop off your ballot. If you simply prefer to vote in person, then this is your big day. Unfortunately, registrars statewide are predicting the vast majority of voters will skip this election. They say only 20 percent to 25 percent will vote. We hope that’s not true here.

Why? Because good government depends on your votes. Not necessarily on the statewide or national levels, but on the local level – where government really counts. Today’s winners will be with us for at least the next four years, making policy, setting rules and running departments that affect our lives each and every day.

The adage you get the government you deserve is absolutely true. Voting gives you a better chance of getting the government you want.

In Stanislaus, Merced and San Joaquin counties, we’re electing a sheriff. In Stanislaus and San Joaquin, we’re choosing district attorneys. Those are the two most important jobs in local law enforcement.

Voters in two of Stanislaus County’s five districts will elect new supervisors. They not only set policy, they control the county’s billion-dollar budget. Most of that money comes directly out of our pockets in one way or another. That’s why the assessor’s office is important; assessors determine the value of each property and, thus, how much it will be taxed.

Those running to represent us in Sacramento and Washington are using this election as a practice run, because only one race (10th Congressional District) drew more than two candidates. Consider a vote for an incumbent a vote of confidence; a vote for a challenger is way of expressing dissatisfaction.

This is a historic election, too, the first in which the top-two statewide primary system is in use. You don’t have to stick to party lines. In races with more than two candidates, the top two advance to November’s general election. Top-two already has spiced up competition. A challenge – even from within the same party – can keep elected officials on their toes. We like it.

Consider the secretary of state and controller’s races. Traditionally, these primaries were essentially foregone conclusions for party-backed candidates. Other candidates were discouraged from running. Top-two has created larger fields, a change for the better. For secretary of state, our top election official, there are four eminently qualified candidates – two Democrats, a Republican and one independent. In the controller’s race, former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez is the Democratic favorite. With top-two, another Democrat, Betty Yee, has a good shot at getting into the general election. Without top-two, she might not even have tried. Still, it’s only a primary.

In local races, the results will be real. Don’t sit this one out. But then, we didn’t think you would.

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