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Voter turnout still disappointing

There were few real surprises but a little disappointment when the results of Tuesday’s West Virginia Primary Election were tabulated.

Likely the biggest surprise in our region came from Brooke County, where Democrats chose Kevin Heck over incumbent Sheriff Larry Palmer. Heck, a former deputy, had a 15-vote margin in the unofficial totals, and will face Republican Richard Beatty in the Nov. 3 general election.

Few other local races generated much suspense, and it was the same on the state level.

Some had expected Gov. Jim Justice would face a tougher challenge in his bid for the Republican nomination for a second term. Among his six challengers, Woody Thrasher was considered an interesting candidate, but Justice prevailed handily, claiming a nearly 90,000-vote advantage.

It was the first time Justice had run for the GOP nomination. Even though he was registered to vote as a Republican, he ran as a Democrat when he was elected in 2016. He changed his party affiliation back to Republican several months later. His opponent in November will be Ben Salango, who prevailed over four other candidates in the Democratic primary.

The biggest surprise on the state level came when state Senate President Mitch Carmichael was defeated in the Republican primary by Amy Nicole Grady, a small-town elementary school teacher from Leon in Mason County. A resident of Jackson, Carmichael, had drawn the ire of the state’s teachers during a contentious period which includes strikes and a march on the state Capitol. Her opponent in November will be Democrat Bruce Ashworth.

What was disappointing, however, was the voter turnout, especially considering this is a presidential election year, when more people tend to head to the polls. Overall, turnout across West Virginia was 35.63 percent, down from 39.9 percent in 2016, according to the secretary of state’s office.

While Brooke County’s rate was nearly identical to 2016 — 33.15 Tuesday vs. 33.7 percent in 2016 — numbers were lower in other area counties. Turnout in Hancock County was 30 percent, down from 33.2 percent in 2016, and Ohio County saw a turnout of 39.98 percent, down from 44.4 percent in 2016.

Attention now will be focused on the Nov. 3 election, and voters will have some important decisions to make on the local, state and national levels. Participation from all who are eligible to vote is critical for our system to work at its best.

If you live in West Virginia and are not registered to vote, the deadline is Oct. 13.

We hope everyone will stay informed, spend some time learning about the candidates and issues and vote in the Nov. 3 election.

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