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Editorial: Bethlehem turns out for primary

The results of the Bethlehem highway superintendent primaries are in.

One question that has been reverberating around the Spotlight newsroom in past weeks didn’t have to do with which candidate had the advantage or how the results would shake out. It had instead to do with the electorate.

We wondered whether the interest in the highway superintendent position would carry on through to the primary. You’ll recall in that in April there was considerable excitement regarding a public referendum to abolish the elected position and turn the post into an appointed job. That translated into turnout – 5,055 residents turned out to a single polling place to cast a paper ballot on a single issue. The referendum was resoundingly defeated, clearing the way for Tuesday’s primary contest.

So going into the primary, the question was, would this fever pitch interest carry through? Going off of unofficial results for votes cast in the highway superintendent primaries, 3,252 residents showed out to vote in the races. So less, right?

Well, the answer’s not quite that clear cut. Only Democrats, Republicans and Independence Party members had the option to vote in the highway race thanks to New York’s closed primary system. So while there are about 25,000 registered voters in Bethlehem, only 18,158 were eligible to vote on a highway race. That comes to an effective turnout of about 18 percent, two points under the turnout for the townwide referendum itself.

So it would appear interest did not wane, or at least not by an appreciable margin. In fact, Democrats came close to matching the turnout seen in the contentious 2011 Kotary-Clarkson primary.

Still, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out having one-in-five eligible voters bother to go to the polls is hardly reason to throw a party in the name of civic engagement. So now, as we turn our attention to the general election, we hope you’ll mark Nov. 5 on your calendar and keep your eyes on our pages and our upcoming candidate forums in anticipation of coming out to the polls to make an informed choice.

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