And they’re off.

Early voting for municipal races across Jackson County began at the Jackson County Board of Elections office on Oct. 16 and will continue through Friday, Nov. 1.

Hours for today (Thursday) through Saturday are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and hours Oct. 28-Nov. 1 are 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Polling places for Sylva, Forest Hills and Webster will be open on Election Day, Nov. 5, from 6:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m., in addition to those hours at the BOE office.

Full coverage of developments in those races can be found in this week’s Herald.

In the meantime, our job today is to encourage you to get out and vote, regardless of who you’re planning to vote for.

As of Oct. 19 voter registration numbers in Jackson were as follows, broken down by party: 10,232 unaffiliated, 9,235 Democrat, 7,371 Republican, 184 Libertarian, 9 Green and 4 Constitution.

That’s a pretty healthy voter pool, totaling a shade more than 27,000 voters. Of course, many of those voters aren’t eligible to exercise their right to vote in 2019, as they’re outside of municipal boundaries where elections are being held and have no statewide bond or referendum to draw them out.

In every election, every vote is important. But in the 2019 contests, the number of those votes is smaller, and thus every vote is even more critical to the local municipalities where races are happening this year.

Local government is where the rubber quite literally hits the road – or not, if your local is charged with road repairs and neglects that task. In that case, it would be where the rubber hits the pothole.

Things like roadwork and making sure the garbage is picked up are among jobs that often fall to local government. They’re not “sexy’’ issues but they are huge quality-of-life issues. You don’t think of them until they’re not tended to in a diligent fashion.

Local government sets the tone and direction for local communities, having a say in how those communities plan for their futures.

As communities grow larger they also start playing roles in other quality-of-life matters such as public safety.

So: You want a good community? Study up and vote for the folks you think can best tackle those issues.

Many municipal elections take place in “off’’ years, and turnout tends to be low in off-year campaigns, which don’t feature high-profile state and national contests.

In the 2017 Sylva mayoral race between incumbent Lynda Sossamon and challenger Danny Allen, 242 total votes were cast.

For folks out there who think their votes don’t count, off-year elections would like to have a word with you.

Let’s roll back the clock to 2015.

In a battle for a seat on the Sylva town board, Charlie Schmidt and Greg McPherson were locked in a race that was as close as they come. Headed into the canvass, McPherson held a one-vote lead; Schmidt garnered an extra vote when the official numbers were tallied, knotting the race at 112 votes apiece.

By winning a two-out-of-three coin toss held at the Jackson County Board of Elections, McPherson took the seat.

Four other races in North Carolina were decided by coin toss that year.

If you’re eligible to vote in Sylva, Forest Hills or Webster, by all means study up and go do your duty.

Otherwise, you might be making a coin toss regarding your community’s future.