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Next Tuesday, Fairfax County voters will help decide the outcome of several very important elections.

In addition to a hotly contested governor’s race, area voters will help determine our next lieutenant governor, attorney general and 15 seats in Virginia’s House of Delegates. They’ll also weigh in on Fairfax County’s four-way sheriff’s race and a $250 million school bond. Tuesday’s results will go a long way in determining the quality of Virginia’s roads, universities and business climate.

It’s no secret that statewide candidates view Fairfax County as the straw that stirs Virginia’s election drink. There are good reasons why Ken Cuccinelli, Terry McAuliffe and many other candidates spent a lot time and money here. Fairfax has the highest population of any county or city in Virginia, with more than 1.1 million people and roughly 675,000 registered voters. Couple those statistics with Fairfax County’s large number of corporations and wealthy residents, and it’s easy to understand why Fairfax is a fundraising powerhouse that’s helped shape dozens of statewide elections over the years.

That said, Fairfax residents still need to show up at the polls on Tuesday to make themselves count.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t always been the case — especially in nonpresidential elections.

In 2009, the last time Virginia elected a governor, just 40.4 percent of registered voters in Fairfax County cast a ballot — the lowest percentage to participate in a governor’s race in 40 years. For those without a calculator, that translates to nearly 400,000 Fairfax voters sitting the 2009 election out.

Part of that can be attributed to general voter apathy and growing frustration with the highly partisan political process. Another piece might involve Fairfax County’s explosive growth in racial and ethnic diversity, a trend that has affected how many of us vote as well as who we vote for. Over the past decade, Fairfax has gone from a reliably Republican county to one that may now lean Democratic. Democrats currently hold all nine of the Virginia Senate seats that are connected to Fairfax County and 10 of the county’s 15 spots in the House of Delegates.

Next Tuesday’s election will add a few more critical data points in determining whether Fairfax County’s future takes on a red, blue or purple tint.

Regardless of one’s political affiliation, what matters most is that we all take an hour or two to familiarize ourselves with the issues and another 15 or 20 minutes to vote.

Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 5. Be sure to bring a form of identification when you go to vote.

If you are registered to vote, we encourage you to do so on Tuesday. If you have already voted, we say congratulations.