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If you have ever wondered whether your vote really counts — and used that as an excuse for not voting — think about what happened this week when South Lake Tahoe residents went to the polls to determine their top two choices to advance to the November election in the race for the District 5 seat on the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors.

Sue Novasel of South Lake Tahoe moved ahead easily, getting 1,508 votes or about 28 percent of the unofficial, near-final total. But the next three candidates were only a handful of votes apart. Kevin Brown of Pollock Pines appeared to move ahead to the November runoff election against Novasel with his 950 votes — but Angela Swanson of South Lake Tahoe was only 12 votes behind with 938. And Kenny Curtzwiler of Meyers was only two votes behind Swanson, with 936.

Election officials were still counting some ballots on Friday, and the final results could change. No matter what the final tally is, a couple of candidates and their supporters will be wondering what the results might have been had the turnout been higher than the less than 6,000 voters — out of nearly 18,000 registered voters in the 5th District — who actually cast ballots.

We’re not saying any of the supervisor candidates who apparently lost are better than the ones who appear to have advanced. What we are saying is that the 33 percent turnout of registered voters in the district is pitiful.

It’s not unusual for more voters to turn out in major elections. For example, in the presidential election two years ago, 81 percent of El Dorado County’s registered voters cast ballots.

But is a lower-key local election of any less importance than a big one? Not at all. Decisions by supervisors and other elected local officials affect the quality of life and future direction of our county in many significant ways, and the odds of getting the best people into those offices improve when they’re elected by more than a relative handful of voters. That’s what democracy is all about.

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