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Long Island democracy of the few, for the many

Voters cast their vote at the Bayport-Blue Point

Voters cast their vote at the Bayport-Blue Point High School in Bayport on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015. Credit: James Carbone

The paper ballots aren't counted yet, the outcome of a few races still is unclear, and not that much changed in Tuesday's election. But there's a definitive conclusion in the big-picture contest on Long Island: As voters, we're a sorry lot.

We continue to fall short of our own very low bar. Two years ago, with no county executive race to serve as headliner, a paltry 24 percent of eligible voters went to the polls in Suffolk. This year, with Steve Bellone on the ballot, it looks like turnout was barely 20 percent -- the worst since at least 1995. This, despite thousands of dollars spent by the Democrats to get out their vote. In Nassau, less than 21 percent voted in the high-profile district attorney race.

We could try to rationalize this by noting there were no national or state races to attract voters, but turnout here in those years is no great shakes, either. And local races, like this year's contests, arguably have more direct impact on voters' lives. East End residents understand that, which is why that region once again had the best turnout, mostly well above 30 percent.

Clearly, changes are needed. The more vigorous and more competitive the contest was, the better the turnout. So better candidates must step up for public service. We need a new process to draw election districts so that lopsided party enrollments don't dictate outcomes. We must expand the time to vote, perhaps moving Election Day -- or Days -- to the weekend. And we must address the palpable cynicism among voters that their choices simply don't matter because elected officials regardless of party have ceased to serve them. Disaffected voters who see no meaningful alternatives stay home.

All of us should feel uneasy that so few of us choose our elected leaders. Our collective lack of involvement is shameful. Let's do something about that. Election Day 2016 is 368 days away.