All eligible voters should exercise their right to cast a ballot in the General Election.

But first, they should do their due diligence, putting aside any preconceived notions and learning as much as possible about their choices in order to make wise decisions.

In the best of times, the strength of any democracy depends on the committed participation of the electorate. Currently, the Virgin Islands is far from the best of times: It is struggling to recover from Hurricane Irma and scrambling to respond to existential threats to the financial services industry and the delicate natural environment alike.

This election, then, is more important than ever.

The recent campaigns have included much mudslinging and many unrealistic promises. But they have also included various sound ideas for the way forward.

When voters are making their choices, they should focus on the latter.

The National Democratic Party has had two terms to show what it can do — including nearly a year and a half of handling the hurricane recovery — and voters should carefully review its successes and failures with an open mind. That record should be compared to the possibilities a new government can offer.

For any candidate, of course, experience matters greatly, whether in elected office or elsewhere. So do integrity, work ethic and diligence. Though such qualities at times can seem to be in short supply in politics, they certainly are not absent from the current slate of candidates.
Monday is also a historic election because it poses a threat to the two-party system that has dominated VI politics for the past two decades.

With the retirement of Ralph O’Neal in 2015 and Premier Dr. Orlando Smith this year, the two long-dominant parties have fractured into four, leaving the territory facing a very real possibility of a coalition government for the first time in more than three decades.

What happens on Monday, then, could lay the foundation for VI politics for generations to come. Voters should think hard about what this might mean and how their choices might affect the outcome.

After carefully weighing such considerations, they ultimately should put personal interest aside and select the candidates that they believe will most benefit the entire territory over the long term.

Their children and grandchildren will thank them.