There's reason to take notice whenever there's an uncontested election, such as is the case in Bel Air this fall.

Uncontested elections are a mark of societies that are subject to tyranny.

Just because an election isn't contested, however, doesn't mean the community where the election is taking place isn't free. There are at least two other reasons: apathy and satisfaction. One is as bad as tyranny, the other isn't that big a deal.

When an election isn't contested and the reason is satisfaction, there's not much cause for concern. From time to time, things will be moving along rather smoothly and no one feels strongly enough to run for office against the people already serving.

In the Bel Air case, two people are running for two seats that are up for election on Nov. 5. One is an incumbent, and the other doesn't hold public office. A third, David E. Carey, is serving as mayor, but isn't running for re-election. From that perspective, a new person has been inspired to seek office, but will end up replacing someone who already has served for more than a decade.

So at least one person is interested enough to step up to likely replace someone who has cared enough to serve for an extended period.

Meanwhile, if civic apathy were the reason behind the lack of a contested election in Bel Air, well that would be almost as bad as flat out tyranny. If no one cares who is in public office, the door to that public office is open for people of unsavory character to walk in and take over.

Is it apathy or civic satisfaction that has led to this year's election being uncontested? Only time will tell. Bel Air generally has contested elections, and there have been occasions in recent years when particular issues have caused crowds to turn out at town meetings.

Then again, voter turnout for town elections – contested or otherwise – is anemic at best. Though voters in the town's precincts participate in state and national elections at a fairly respectable level, the town elections score little better than in the teens in terms of eligible voter turnout.

This year's uncontested town election is hardly an indication that the town has turned some moral corner away from civic pride. Both candidates running for the two seats available seem to be seeking a thankless job because they think they can be decent stewards of the town's public services.

Still, the prospect of having no actual choice in a town election, coupled with the track record of low voter participation, is something that should give all civic minded people cause for pause this November.