Fewer than 10 percent of eligible voters bothered to participate in this week's very important preliminary election in New Bedford. We must do better.

Decreasing voter participation is a disturbing trend in our society that must be reversed.  Considering what appears to be wide spread dissatisfaction with the ruling class across all levels of government one would think that voter participation would be higher. When fewer people participate in the process those that do decide the outcome.  Those who fail to participate are often the ones who complain the loudest about the results.

Voting is a privilege that many have given their lives to preserve. But you know that already. You also know that people around the globe envy the American system for government elections and can only hope to emulate the safety and sanctity of that process. Yet each year millions of us take our free election process for granted by refusing to vote, allowing others to make those important decisions for us.

There has been much discussion about how to make our election process more attractive to potential voters. Online voting, declaring election day a federal holiday and holding weekend elections are just a few suggestions. Gimmicks and schemes. Should we offer prizes and contests as well?

Electing a government at any level is serious business and requires a serious effort by all citizens who are eligible to participate. Elections are scheduled like holidays. You always know when they are coming. The time and commitment required to be an informed voter is minimal. Voting is essential for our country to operate efficiently and we all have a stake in the outcome.

Tuesday's preliminary turnout was disappointing.

Preliminary elections are important in that they select the finalists for the general election.  New Bedford has a rare opportunity to make some real change in November in that three Ward Council seats are open and another features a rematch between an incumbent and a well known former councilor. The City Council is where laws are made and tax rates are set. Important stuff.

I sincerely hope that more eligible voters participate in the general election next month and that even more register to vote. Voting makes you feel good and gives you a stake in the running of your government. If you chose to opt out, then keep your complaints to yourself should you be unhappy with the results.

Editor's Note: Barry Richard is the afternoon host on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from Noon-3pm. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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