Lack of voter participation should prompt discussion

The most obvious takeaway from Tuesday’s primary election in the Mahoning Valley has to do with voter participation – or lack thereof.

Pre-election predictions from elections officials turned out to be disturbingly accurate.

In Mahoning County, just 10.6 percent of the registered voters went to the polls, even though there was a countywide sales tax renewal on the ballot.

In Trumbull County, the turnout was just as bleak, with 14.5 percent participating.

The obvious explanation for the lack of interest in the Democratic and Republican primaries was the absence of competitive races and controversial issues.

But the question must be asked: Would the turnout have been greater had there been nonpartisan contests?

We’ve asked this question over the years as the number of voters going to the polls has remained disappointing. Indeed, even in presidential elections, the turnout regionally and nationally has been embarrassingly low compared with other democracies.

Perhaps the Ohio League of Women Voters would be inspired to lead a discussion on the merits of nonpartisan elections.

Taxpayers should remember there’s a cost attached to holding elections.

That said, Tuesday’s polling did give Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene and other government officials a reason to celebrate.

By a huge margin, residents said yes to the renewal of a 0.75-percent justice sales tax for five years.

Greene had voiced concern prior to the election that a low turnout could affect the outcome of the tax renewal.

While the number was less than we had hoped for, we are pleased with the show of support for the work being done by the sheriff’s department, the prosecutor’s and coroner’s offices and the 911 operation.

The four entities will share the anticipated $25,168,000 the 0.75 percent justice sales tax will generate.

Had voters said no to the renewal, county government could have been forced to impose $12.2 million in cuts in justice services by 2021.

We were concerned that county commissioners Anthony Traficanti, Carol Rimedio-Righetti and David Ditzler had let it be known they intended to place the renewal on the November general election ballot if it was rejected on Tuesday. Fortunately, voters did the right thing.

Caliber of candidates

There were two races in particular that intrigued us because of what they said about the caliber of candidates this region is capable of producing.

In the contest for the Democratic nomination for mayor of Hubbard, voters had the luxury of choosing between two highly qualified, community-minded, credible candidates: Benjamin Kyle and Tim O’Hara.

Kyle and O’Hara, both well-known businessmen, laid out their visions for the city’s future that were optimistic and realistic.

As we said in the editorial endorsing Kyle, a principal in the family business, Stewart-Kyle Funeral Home, either candidate would be a worthy successor to Mayor John Darko, who is not seeking re-election this year.

On Tuesday, Democratic voters chose Kyle, councilman-at-large and chairman of the Finance Committee.

As chairman, he works closely with Mayor Darko and members of his administration to ensure that the city is on solid ground.

Indeed, Kyle told the Editorial Board that city government’s budget is in “fantastic” shape and has a $1.5 million surplus as a result of the “drastic action” taken by the mayor and council to cut costs.

O’Hara, who has served as 2nd Ward councilman for 11 years and is chairman of council’s safety committee, has shown a commitment to Hubbard, which leads us to believe he will work with the presumptive new mayor, Kyle, whose term begins in January.

In Youngstown, the 3rd Ward city council race featured three candidates we found to be well-prepared and qualified to represent a part of the city that has stable and unstable neighborhoods.

We endorsed Samantha Turner, director of operations for Youngstown Area Goodwill Industries, and the Democratic voters in the ward agreed with our judgment.

The two other strong contenders were Denice Necie Neal-Davis and Darian Rushton.

Turner will face two independent candidates in November, Adrian L. McDowell and Ronald Shadd.

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