According the Virginia Department of Elections, there are more than 5.5 million registered voters in the commonwealth, as of April 30. The odds are that only a tiny fraction of them will head to the polls tomorrow in various party primaries to select candidates for state and local offices.

That’s a shame.

Virginia is one of 19 states that doesn’t register voters by party. Party primaries are paid for state taxpayers and staffed by officials from the local registrars’ offices. No one will ask whether you’re a regular Democratic voter or Republican voter when you show up at the polls — that’s what it means when we say Virginia has an “open” primary.

This November in the general election, all 100 seats in the House of Delegates and all 40 seats in the Virginia Senate will be up for grabs, in addition to a plethora of local elections. In many races, there are no announced candidates other than those seeking their parties’ nominations in today’s primaries.

One such contests are in our own backyard.

The 15th District of the Virginia Senate includes a good portion of Pittsylvania County and a couple of precincts in Danville.

Incumbent Republican Frank Ruff has represented the district since winning election in November 1999 and is seeking his fifth, four-year term. A powerful legislator, he serves on the budget-writing Finance Committee and is a budget conferee, one of six legislators who hammer out the final state budget. He’s being challenged from his right by Dale Sturdifen, a former Virginia State Trooper and Marine Corps veteran of Operation Desert Storm.

There is no announced Democratic candidate for the November election, which means the victor in today’s primary contest likely will be the next senator in the General Assembly.

There are also local contests on the ballot, too.

In Pittsylvania County, incumbent Board of Supervisors members Bob Warren and Ron Scearce are running unopposed for their party’s nominations; Tim Dudley is unopposed in his bid for the Staunton River District nomination; and Vic Ingram and incumbent Tim Barber are vying for the Tunstall District seat. Sam Barber of Blairs, the chairman of the Pittsylvania County School Board, is seeking to turn back a challenge from Lyndsey Dotterer, while incumbent Todd Sanders and Kevin Mills are vying for the Westover seat. Incumbents George Henderson and Don Moon are unopposed. Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Haskins, Sheriff Mike Taylor and Treasurer Vincent Shorter have no opposition in their nomination bids, while Robin Goard and Kristin Worsham are seeking to replace retiring Shirley Hammock as commissioner of the revenue.

Folks, the offices — both state and local — are important and directly affect the lives of everyday Virginians. We urge you to exercise your right to vote, especially in those races that likely will be unopposed in November. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Vote!

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