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Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Lillie Carter finishes her early voting ballot for Chattanooga's municipal runoff election at Brainerd Recreation Center in March.

Hamilton County will hold a state House special election primary on Tuesday. The outcome in the District 29 race is virtually certain, so most voters likely will stay home.

But we think if you live in the district, which is the county's biggest geographically, running from its top left corner near Sale Creek, across the Tennessee River, down almost its entire right-hand border with Bradley County and even into North Brainerd, you ought to vote.

The candidates, Republican Greg Vital and Democrat DeAngelo Jelks, are unopposed in their primaries. As long as one person votes for each one, and something cataclysmic doesn't happen between now and then, they will be the combatants in the Sept. 14 general election.

They are vying to fill the unexpired term of Republican Mike Carter, one of the legislature's sharpest minds and surely one of its most decent men. They have big shoes to fill.

Carter's widow, Joan, was appointed to serve on an interim basis after his death in May.

Why in the world would you want to take the time to vote in an election where the outcome is set and there is only one race on the ballot? Consider:

* We still believe voting is a privilege. In Cuba, 90 miles from the tip of Florida, voting also is allowed. But only one party is permitted — the Communist Party. No campaigning is allowed. And the people are not permitted to select their president.

When we vote, our name is checked in a book of authorized voters. Our identification is examined to make sure we are who we say we are. We sign the book acknowledging our intent to vote.

Poll workers watch from afar to be sure no one is influencing our vote. Our votes and our stubs go in separate locked boxes that can be matched up in case there is any discrepancy. No person examines our ballot to see for whom we voted.

Some today would have people just be able to show up and vote, without anyone having checked to see if they are authorized to vote and without having to show any identification. We think that's wrong and a recipe for voter fraud.

* By voting for the candidate in either primary Tuesday, you are affirming your belief in what he stands for. You might not know Vital or Jelks, but you admire Jelks' rise from Atlanta's inner-city streets, you like Vital's devotion to senior citizens in the communities he's built, you appreciate Jelks' military service in Iraq or in the Army Reserve, or you respect Vital's passion for land and wildlife conservation.

If as the Bible says where your treasure is, there will your heart be also, their attributes might give you a clue as to how they'd vote in Nashville.

* One hundred feet outside of your polling place, the distance specified by Tennessee law, you might meet one or both of the candidates. Right now, they sound like they're from the same party. They both support giving children the best education possible, feel that our infrastructure must be maintained and believe our workforce should be prepared to meet the challenges of 21st-century jobs. Imagine that.

Up close and personal, you can ask them the questions that have been on your mind. Where do they stand on abortion? Are they an advocate of COVID-19 vaccines? How do they feel about the cancel culture? Would they vote to expand Medicaid in the state?

* As former New York Yankees great and unintentional quipper Yogi Berra used to say, "You can observe a lot by watching." Who comes out to vote in a race where the results are all but known?

Is it your neighbor, who knows one of the candidates? Check with her and see what she knows. Are they your fellow church members or civic club cohorts? Ask them what issue or what candidate made them come out today?

Are young people voting? Senior citizens? Are women particular interested in the race? Blacks? If they've come out to vote, they're probably willing to tell you why they're there and what they think.

In the past, District 29 has been a solidly Republican district. But we have said many times we don't think any race ought to be unopposed. No matter which party is favored, especially if the candidate is an incumbent, an opposed race keeps the favored candidate on his or her feet and forces them to answer for their previous votes.

In this campaign, of course, there is no incumbent. Vital is likely to be favored in the Sept. 14 general election because of the district's past voting and because of his name recognition from his senior living communities. But anything could happen in a special election where the vote count is likely to be low.

On Tuesday, though, invest in your right to vote. And vote even if you're sure what the outcome will be.

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