Tribune-Star Editorial graphic

It would seem that Wabash Valley residents are anxious to cast their votes in an election that could reshape the future of local cities and counties, the state of Indiana and the nation.

They cannot do that, though, unless they register with their home county.

The window of opportunity is closing for folks who intend to vote but are not yet registered. The deadline for Indiana residents is Monday, Oct. 5 — just 11 days away. The process is not difficult, and guidelines can be found online at the state's website indianavoters.in.gov. Residents who do not have access to the internet can ask a friend or relative to print out a registration form via the state website.

Interest appears to be rising. As of Wednesday, the Vigo County Voter Registration Office counted 72,418 registered voters. That is an increase of 1,040 since the June primary election.

Of course, one huge variable looms, in terms of how many people actually vote in the Nov. 3 general election. The coronavirus pandemic continues to alter everyday life here and around the world. All but a handful of states have expanded absentee voting by mail to all residents, an opportunity that allows voters to avoid waiting in lines at polling sites and possibly being exposed to the virus. Indiana officials declined to expand mail-in voting, except for residents who meet one of 11 state-approved excuses for voting absentee.

Those excuses do not include a concern of contracting COVID-19, unless the person is confined to their residence because of that fear, state officials have said. Gov. Eric Holcomb and Secretary of State Connie Lawson emphasize that public-health protocols will be in place at polling sites. Vote centers will be safe, Holcomb said Wednesday.

For some Hoosiers, the decision on whether to register and vote involves a doubt about the importance of their lone ballot. Such skepticism defies recent history.

More than 120 million votes were cast nationwide in the 2016 election, highlighted by the race between billionaire real estate developer and reality TV star Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Amid those millions of votes, a cluster of 107,000 votes in three states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — gave Trump the presidency through the Electoral College. That batch amounts to 0.09% of all votes cast that year.

For both Trump and Clinton supporters, those voters clearly mattered.

Even people uninterested in or disillusioned by this year's president race between Trump, the incumbent Republican, and former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic challenger, should consider numerous other issues at stake in the 2020 election.

The governor's seat is up for grabs in Indiana, pitting the incumbent Holcomb against Dr. Woody Myers, the Democratic former state health commissioner, and Libertarian Don Rainwater. Most Hoosiers have been affected by policies put in place to contain COVID-19 by the governor and fellow state officials, and voters can weigh in on whether Holcomb's handling of the situation merits a second term.

Congress also has a role in the coronavirus response. Voters can decide whether federal assistance and recovery steps have been proper by deciding between incumbent 8th District Rep. Larry Bucshon or his Democratic challenger, Owen County business owner and EMT Thomasina Marsili.

Seats in the Indiana House and Senate are on the ballot, too. Both chambers are dominated by Republicans. Residents can show their approval or disapproval of legislators' handling of the state economy, finances, public education and the quality of their roads by voting in those races.

And, perhaps most important and visible are the county-level races for judges, clerk, auditor, treasurer, coroner, commissioners, council members and school board seats. If having a say in local courts, public projects and school policies matters, then vote.

Registering to vote takes only a few minutes. Casting a ballot consumes part of a single day. The outcomes of those votes can impact lives for years and generations. So get registered and vote.

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