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Editorial: Participate in local government, vote in 2021 election

After record-setting turnout in a divisive 2020 presidential election, eligible voters shouldn’t tune out local politics.

From Rockwell to Cleveland, there are races on the ballot in every municipality. Not all of them are competitive — Spencer and Landis are examples — but all are important in determining the future of communities. In places where races aren’t competitive, voters still have the opportunity to endorse the job done by incumbents or support newcomers, if they’re so inclined.

There’s a slim-to-nonexistent chance that Rowan County replicates the 75.59% turnout rate for the 2020 general election. Unfortunately, fewer people pay attention to elections for municipal office and turnout numbers reflect that. Even in a relatively good year for turnout in 2019, just 20.33% of eligible voters across the county cast ballots. But the county’s voters can certainly improve on the 2019 turnout.

Unlike elections in even-numbered years, 2020 or 2022, only people who live in the boundaries of a municipality can cast a ballot. People who own property in or work in Salisbury, for example, cannot vote in the city if they live elsewhere. The best way to check is to visit vt.ncsbe.gov/RegLkup and look under the “your sample ballot” section. If it’s blank, you are not eligible to vote in the 2021 election. People can also contact the Rowan County Board of Elections at 704-216-8140.

In Salisbury, voters should see voting this year as an opportunity to be part of history. This year is the first time voters will be able to directly vote for mayor. The candidates are Al Heggins and Karen Alexander. Heggins was the mayor for one term under the outgoing system and currently serves as mayor pro tem. Alexander is currently the mayor and served in the same position before Heggins.

Both enter the election with a base of support, well-known to the voting populace and well-acquainted with the basics of city government. For the city’s first mayoral election, Salisbury really couldn’t ask for a better contest.

The Salisbury City Council election will produce two new members because Heggins and Alexander are seeking the mayor’s position rather than one of the four remaining council spots and Brian Miller isn’t seeking another term. Whether it’s policy positions or demographics, the candidate field is diverse.

Meanwhile, in Rockwell and Granite Quarry, voters will choose between two candidates for mayor. Granite Quarry voters also have a competitive town board race.

In China Grove, all incumbents are seeking another term, but there are multiple challengers who want their chance at shaping the town’s future, too. East Spencer and Cleveland have competitive races. In Faith, the candidate with the most write-in votes will receive a spot on the board because not enough people filed.

Competition, though, isn’t the most critical reason for voting.

City councils, boards of aldermen and town boards make decisions that affect daily life more than any congressman, senator or president. Members vote on budgets that determine whether new fire or police stations get built. They set funding levels for the police and fire departments, parks and public works. They supervise a town or city manager and are tasked with making sure staff aren’t pocketing tax money for their own benefit. Board members make zoning decisions about whether housing developments, apartment complexes or new stores can go up in town.

Those are just the basics.

To help voters become informed, the Salisbury Post has published stories about several of the elections already and will publish its regular voters guide on Tuesday, with information about candidates all competitive elections on the ballot. Take it and vote for the best candidates to serve in the most fundamental form of government — local government.

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