Our Opinion: Make your choice in Wilson County primary elections

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It’s time for Wilson County voters to stand up and be counted.

Today is the final day of early voting in the 2018 primaries and Election Day is Tuesday. Those who haven’t already made it to the polls still have ample opportunity to help shape our shared future.

In last November’s municipal elections, too many Wilsonians cast the only vote we can’t respect — electing to stay home. An anemic 6.81 percent of registered voters picked our city and town council members.

“Wilson County has a profound local-level civic engagement problem,” we wrote in this space Nov. 9. Now’s the time to turn that around, and we suspect that one contest in particular will boost primary participation this year.

Three Democrats are in the running for Wilson County sheriff. Two-term incumbent Calvin Woodard faces challengers Chris Boykin and Dinise Williams in the quest to become the county’s chief law enforcement officer.

Under North Carolina’s open primary system, both Democrats and those who are unaffiliated can participate in that race, bringing the total number of eligible voters to 41,768 — or 75.3 percent of all registered Wilson County voters.

Since the sheriff contest has the largest potential for participation, we’ve reported on it extensively. The Times published three candidate surveys with responses from all three hopefuls. Questions centered on school safety, the opioid crisis and animal control issues.

We also hosted a sheriff candidate forum Tuesday evening at Wilson Community College’s DelMastro Auditorium. Wilson police officers working the event counted 183 people in attendance. Hundreds more watched a live video feed from the forum on the Wilson Times Co. Facebook page. The video, which is still accessible on Facebook, had racked up more than 3,100 views and 386 comments as of Tuesday night.

Republicans don’t have a sheriff primary, as Kevin Raper was the sole GOP candidate to file and will face the Democratic nominee in November. But Wilson Republicans who live in the 2nd Congressional District still have an important choice to make.

U.S. Army and law enforcement veteran Allen Chesser is challenging Rep. George Holding, a former federal prosecutor, for his seat in Congress. Both candidates pledge to be the community’s authentic conservative voice in Washington.

While the 2nd District leans Republican, three Democrats are jostling for the right to face either Holding or Chesser in the general election. They are Linda Coleman, a former state lawmaker and lieutenant governor candidate, Wendy Ella May, a transgender military veteran, and Ken Romley, a Raleigh businessman widely seen as a moderate.

Voters who live in the Wilson County portion of Sharpsburg will choose either incumbent Randy Weaver or challenger Robert Williams to serve as the town’s mayor. State officials ordered a new election after Williams contested his narrow loss in November. A ballot shortage in Wilson County prevented some of Williams’ supporters from voting for him.

The Wilson Times does not endorse candidates for public office. Our mission is to provide voters with the information they need to make the decisions that best reflect their personal priorities and values.

We do, however, encourage all eligible voters to participate in local elections. Voting is as much a duty as a right, and we shudder to think of the implications of a political system where a small fraction of citizens choose our leaders.

If you’re reading this on Saturday, the Wilson County Board of Elections office at 112 Douglas St. E. is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the final day of one-stop early voting.

For those who prefer Election Day tradition, you can vote at your precinct polling place from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday. To find your polling place, you can look up your voter registration on the N.C. State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement website at https://vt.ncsbe.gov/RegLkup/.

Whoever you support, we hope you take the time to cast your ballot and participate in the democratic process.

“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice,” Rush frontman Gaddy Lee sings in “Free Will.”

That’s the only choice — staying home — we’ll ask you not to make.