This could be a hard year for democracy in Western New York. With no state or federal offices up for election, enough voters may be sufficiently disengaged that a motivated minority will decide who wins the elections for Erie County executive, Niagara Falls mayor and several other local offices.
Don't let that happen. Western New Yorkers have enough on the line in these elections that everyone registered has ample reason to vote, in their own self-interest, if not simply as a matter of civic duty.
On the line in Erie County is the kind of leadership residents want in the top office. Do they want an experienced political hand who pledges reform and knows the system but is tied into the old ways, or do they want a corporate CEO with no political experience but a vision of how to make county government more accountable to the voters?
That's the choice between Democrat James P. Keane, a former member of the Buffalo Common Council and recent aide to Sen. Hillary Clinton, and Republican Christopher C. Collins, who has a track record of turning around struggling businesses. The choice voters make will influence their tax rates, the local economy and hundreds of other decisions that will come before the new executive.
Voters face similar decisions in elections for the Erie County Legislature, county clerk and other offices, including many at the town and village level. But in Buffalo Common Council elections, only one race, in the Niagara District, is contested. In the others, Democrats run unopposed. That's disgraceful, but it's also dangerous for democracy. Candidates should win based on the fullest vote possible, not on flukes or strategies that depress voter turnout.
So go vote on Tuesday. Take a friend. Encourage others to meet their obligations. It's the region's future, and it's yours, too.