Democracy is a valuable and wonderful gift, and acknowledging an obvious truth does nothing to diminish its importance: This election is almost over.

Tens of millions of Americans are breathing a sigh of relief that after nearly two years of listening to politicians snipe at each other while distorting each others’ records – as well as their own – it will all be over tomorrow. On Tuesday, the clock runs out for the candidates, and voters get to write the finish.

That, at least, is the hope. Some fear, and not unreasonably, the presidential election will be so close that on Wednesday the lawyers will take over where the politicians left off. Welcome back, 2000.

That was the year that the race between George W. Bush and Al Gore was resolved in the Supreme Court. And, while Americans accepted that decision – an insufficiently heralded triumph of democracy – it was an unhelpful conclusion to a contentious campaign.

That’s not the only way this year’s contest between President Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney could produce stressful similarities to the 2000 election. In that race, while Gore won the popular vote, Bush prevailed in the all-important Electoral College. The candidate who got fewer votes won the presidency. For better or worse, that is how our system can work in close elections.

Something like that may be afoot again in this race, according to some observers. Romney could defeat Obama in the popular vote on Tuesday, while Obama wins re-election based on the number and size of the states he wins.

If that happens, will disappointed Republicans be as accepting as distraught Democrats were 12 years ago? We think so. Devotion to the systems of American democracy do not belong to one party or the other.

At the same time, though, it is hard to overlook the nature of the tea party-driven Republican Party. In the sway of that element, the party has become disturbingly absolutist, giving no quarter to any idea but its own version of how events should go. If that happens, it will be up to Romney to set the tone, as Gore did in 2000.

Yet, maybe even that contentious dynamic can change. Only the most jaded of partisans could have failed to be heartened by the cooperation and genuine appreciation shown by Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie last week as they collaborated in response to the devastation from Sandy. Christie, a Republican, has been a fierce critic of the president, but he forthrightly and effusively praised Obama for his attention to the disaster in New Jersey.

Yes, both men benefited politically from their willingness to work together. It allowed Obama to show only days before the election that he can work well with Republicans and it gave Christie a boost in his largely Democratic state.

But that’s the point. Elected officials with different agendas can pursue them without demonizing one another, however much loudmouths like Rush Limbaugh may bleat otherwise. In America, there is usually common ground. Finding that acreage is what Americans should demand of all elected officials, regardless of who wins Tuesday.

Still, there are differences between the candidates, and this is the opportunity for Americans to make choices based on those differences. Following are our recommendations in the races that we focused on this year. Whomever you support, though, the best thing you can do for your county, state and nation is to exercise your franchise. A strong turnout helps to empower the victors and soothe the losers, because the decision was made not by a few voters, but by as many as possible.

It’s important. Go vote.


President: Barack Obama

U.S. Senate: Kirsten Gillibrand

23rd Congressional District: Tom Reed

26th Congressional District: Brian Higgins

27th Congressional District: Kathleen C. Hochul

60th State Senate District: Mark J. Grisanti

62nd State Senate District: George D. Maziarz

Erie County comptroller: Stefan Mychajliw