The most important election is always the next one. People need to remember that.

There was disappointing but not necessarily surprising news this week from the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Staffers completed their statistical work from the June 28 primary election, finding that just 21.68 percent of the state’s eligible voters exercised their right to have a say in which candidates the parties will be running in the November election.

To be more specific, there are 8,107,797 registered voters in the Land of Lincoln. Of that total, just 1,757,872 people voted.

Democrats were slightly better represented at the polls. Some 911,919 people chose ballots from the state’s controlling political party, while 812,133 people cast GOP ballots.

It’s been worse. In 2014, turnout was just over 18 percent. But still, it’s pretty much a disgrace that so few cared to participate in such an important civic endeavor.

There are some understandable reasons to explain the apathy, the principal one being the lack of competition that traditionally drives voters’ interest.

Nonetheless, there were important contests on both Democratic and Republican ballots.

In addition to the contested statewide fight for the Democratic nomination for secretary of state, there were local legislative and judicial contests.

On the Republican side, there were contested races for party nominations from the top of the ballot to the bottom.

Yet disinterest was clear across the board.

Cook County has 3.1 million voters, but just 661,000 cast ballots. DuPage and Lake counties have 636,000 and 489,000 voters, respectively, but just just 168,000 and 89,000 voted.

The numbers from smaller counties were equally unimpressive.

Champaign had 31,228 votes out of 120,538 registered voters; Vermilion. 7,426 out of 44,749 registered; Edgar, just 2,748 out of 12,192 registered; and Macon, 16,221 out of 71,354 registered.

It’s easy to understand why voters in our corrupt and dysfunctional state too often turn their backs on the democratic process.

But withdrawing from participation is the opposite guarantees losing. Change is driven at the ballot box. Too many elected officials may not care much about their constituents’ views, but they care deeply about their constituents’ votes. They are frightened by informed voters who look beyond party labels to public policy.

It’s unclear what impact the June primary had on turnout. The consensus is that the warmer the weather, the less inhibition voters feel about turning out. On paper, a June primary is clearly better than Illinois’ traditional cold-weather March primary that allows party bosses to get their people to the polls at the general public’s expense.

It seems likely that legislative leaders of the majority party — the Democrats — will want to return to a March primary. It was moved back to June this year because of complications involving the collection of census figures.

But whatever the primary date, people need to educate themselves about the candidates and the issues and participate in greater numbers. Democracy confers certain responsibilities on those who live under it, and more people need to embrace them.

Next up is the November election, where turnout is normally higher. But how much will it be?

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