If you’re age 18 and over, you have a duty on Tuesday.

The right to vote is a cornerstone of a representative government. Free and fair elections are what fuel our democracy. They fuel the concept this country was founded upon: a government for the people, by the people.

On Tuesday, you won’t find bubbles to fill in for President or Congress. But that doesn’t make this election any less important.

In fact, voters will head to the polls — provided they’ve not already voted absentee — and will make decisions that will directly impact their daily lives.

You will vote for school board representatives, city council members, and a referendum that could reshape our regional community college’s future for decades to come.

Just last week, the Ottumwa Courier’s Editorial Board offered its endorsements to Ottumwa voters. If you’ve forgotten, we’ve endorsed a yes vote to the Indian Hills Community College referendum — which proposes a minimal tax increase to fund a $28 million bond to improve all of IHCC’s campuses and services. We’ve supported Rick Johnson for Ottumwa Mayor, and Sandra Pope, Cara Galloway and Russ Hull for Ottumwa City Council.

We feel this group on the ballot best positions Ottumwa on a pathway toward success. Plus, they would make the city’s government more diverse and more closely resemble the Ottumwa we’ve become.

But we don’t decide the election. Voters do. And that’s the beauty of our society.

City and school elections are generally a guarantee for the lowest voter turnouts. Help lead the change to overturn that.

Southeast Iowa needs competent people invested in their towns and communities, and its local government bodies. These people are otherwise normal folks who meet once or twice a month, sometimes more, to decide things that will impact you directly and immediately. Not voting because there isn’t a presidential or congressional race is senseless. These races matter, too.

So regardless of who you vote for, take the time this weekend to prepare. There are archived videos of city council candidate forums. There are questionnaires and stories written about the candidates. There are our editorial endorsements. Read and watch them, and then head to the polls to make informed decisions based on what you feel is the best pathway for Ottumwa, or whichever community you reside.

And beyond that ballot box, we encourage you to stay engaged with your local government. Let the officials you elect know how you feel. Participate in meetings and public comment periods, write or speak with your elected officials. (Posting gripes on Facebook groups doesn’t count.)

The government can’t be for the people, by the people, if the people stay home.

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