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Dismal turnout 

It's pretty easy to guess what the big story is coming out of Tuesday's elections and primaries. Turnout was dismal. Only about 10 to 15 percent of registered voters showed up, depending on where you live. Many folks say they simply didn't know there was an election--as if all those signs spontaneously sprouted.

The analysts are blaming the summer scheduling--the result of another redistricting lawsuit--for the turnout drop, but the truth is it didn't have far to fall.

Behind the headlines, though, there are plenty of stories out of Tuesday's contests. The composition of the state House, for one, is changing enough that the twin speaker combination of Reps. Jim Black and Richard Morgan will likely be history when the legislature reconvenes in January. In addition, the outcome of about 20 key Republican primaries throughout the state (including a handful of races in Wake County) will decide a bitter intra-party rivalry between the more moderate Morgan forces and hard-line conservatives led by Rep. Leo Daughtry of Johnston County.

We hope that changes the don't-do-anything-controversial mindset enough for the General Assembly to finally agree on a death penalty moratorium and abandon the absurd refusal to consider even a modest hike in the tobacco tax (we're second lowest in the nation).

And we hope the lack of interest this time around is not an indication of the way things are going to go in November. While we said last week that the local elections are almost as important as the national ones, there is no question that this year's presidential race is the most important in decades. If you didn't vote this week, resolve to make up for it on Nov. 2. There's too much at stake, and as Florida taught us in 2000, a few votes can make a big difference (and we're not talking about the Supreme Court).

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