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Why do so few people vote?

Yesterday’s election in the Town of Pagosa Springs is over, and congratulations are due to the winners: Clint Alley, Tracy Bunning and David Schanzenbaker.

The victors join incumbent members of the council — Ross Aragon, Darrel Cotton, Don Volger and Kathy Lattin — in the midst of a period of considerable controversy surrounding town government and governance, and projects, both private and public, planned for the near future.

The heat is likely to stay on the council and town staff, some of it justified, much resulting from misinformation and misconceptions about the role of government.

When the topic of Wal-Mart comes up, cool heads must prevail on the council. The issue causes emotional turmoil in some circles and prompts considerable ire. The fact the council will likely make only one decision regarding the proposed big box development (a property-related decision) will have little effect on those enflamed by the prospect of the store operating here.

When resistance to proposals for development of Reservoir Hill come to the fore, council members must maintain composure and come to conclusions in this matter — one over which they have total control. Following examination of all aspects of the development plan and reactions to the plan, councilors will decide what the town will pursue, and what it won’t.

With the council’s plate so full, one thing stands out about yesterday’s election: the low number of registered voters who thought the matter important enough to draw them to the polls.

There are 1,072 people registered to vote in Pagosa Springs, with 200 possibly inactive. Therefore, there were at least 872 voters able to go to the polls Tuesday. Only 261 people voted.

Our concern about this level of voter turnout extends to the May election for directors of the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District — another critically important entity in the area. An article in this week’s SUN points to the fact that the amount of water available in the snowpack in the high country this spring is alarmingly low. Low enough to remind us of 2002, when drought was a prime concern here. PAWSD provides water to nearly all consumers of treated water in Pagosa Country. To think that impending drought will not make a difference is foolish. To select any less than the most competent directors for PAWSD is self-destructive.

The voters in the district must respond, in great numbers.

Further, looking ahead to the June 26 primary run-ups to the Nov. 6 general election, and to that election itself, our concern about voter turnout remains.

Thus far, in Republican contests, voter turnout has been less than impressive in many instances. Upcoming primary elections require substantial voter participation to provide candidates and issues for next fall. And the general election, with its presidential race, demands that voter numbers must be maximized.

If you are a registered voter, why would you not exercise this great privilege?

If you are not registered, why not?

For residents of Pagosa Country not currently registered — now is the time. Go to the county clerk’s Elections Office in the basement of the courthouse and register. Or go online to govotecolorado.com (a Colorado driver’s license is required at this site). You have until April 9 to register to vote in the upcoming PAWSD election. You have until May 29 to be eligible to cast a vote in a primary election. You have until Oct. 9 to register for the general election.

A third of eligible voters turning out at the polls is unacceptable, and those voters who fail to cast ballots shirk their responsibilities and cede the task of shaping their government to others. Karl Isberg

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