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Staff file photo / Voters wait in line to vote in 2020 to vote early at the Hamilton County Election Commission. Early voting begins Wednesday in the Hamilton County Primary.

If you're a Democrat or Democratic leaning in Hamilton County, your ballot in recent years has looked pretty lean. This year is only marginally better: We do have one candidate each on the May 3 Democratic primary ballot for county mayor and county district attorney. That alone is an improvement.

But altogether, Democratic candidates are vying for votes in only 14 of the 40 county races.

Here's the thing: Given Hamilton County's lean to Republican red, this likely means we still have only a slim chance to ensure our Democratic picks for mayor and DA can win in August. We already know who the Democratic mayoral and DA candidates will be in the fall. We don't yet know who the Republican candidates will be. Do we want to opt out of helping make sure we have the best possible Republican mayor and/or DA? There's more.

If we pull a Democratic ballot for May 3, it also means that as Democrats we have no vote in two important judgeships — contested seats in our Circuit Court and our Criminal Court.

It gets even more complicated at the commission and school board levels. If you live in Districts 1, 8 and 10, you have no vote — none — on the Democratic ballot for your county commissioner. If you live in District 9, you have no vote for your school board member.

On the flip side, if you live in District 5 and you don't pull a Democratic ballot, you lose the chance to choose among four Democrats seeking to represent you on the county commission.

Voting isn't rocket science — it's actually more important. All politics are local, so do your homework. Go to elect.hamiltontn.gov and scroll down to "click here to find your ... " . Plug in your address to see the what's on both the Republican and Democratic ballots for your area. Then decide who and what is highest on your priority list.

We don't choose new cars or furniture to serve us for years by going only to one dealership or store. We shop around. We have to shop around for good leaders, too.

There's no shame in cross-over voting.

It's called democracy. It's called voting the way you want to vote. And the top vote-getter wins — no matter what combinations of red and blue support he or she receives.

Early voting begins Wednesday.

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