SUFFOLK COUNTY CURRENTLY lacks an elected register of deeds, yet seems to be doing just fine. That's all many voters may want to know about the current seven-way Democratic primary race to fill the little-known position. The elected register nominally controls land records in Boston, Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop, but in reality has so little power or responsibility that barely anybody has noticed that the position has been vacant all year.
That invisibility makes it awfully tempting to flip a coin, write in your cat, or just skip that part of the ballot altogether. Someone, perhaps one of these seven Democrats, will win the election in November and go on to collect the $124,000-a-year-salary, and it won't make any difference to the vast majority of the county's residents.
Still, despite occasional calls for its abolition, the antiquated office isn't going anywhere, and as long as taxpayers are shelling out the register's salary, they should expect a competent, committed official who makes an effort to earn the paycheck. Four of the Democrats running in the Thursday, Sept. 8, primary deserve serious consideration: Stephanie Everett, Katie Forde, Paul Nutting Jr., and Jeff Ross.
All have run good campaigns promising to use the register's office to serve the public. Any of them would probably do a fine job. But their candidacies are now working at cross-purposes, dividing the field and increasing the odds that former city councilor Stephen J. Murphy will win the nomination instead, on the power of his name recognition.
The Globe endorses Forde, in hopes that non-Murphy voters will rally around her Thursday. There is nothing wrong with Everett, Nutting, and Ross. But Forde, a paralegal from Roslindale, seems to have the clearest shot at consolidating support. She has raised enough money to be competitive and has outlined a practical agenda that includes expanding hours at the registry, bolstering programs to aid home buyers, and making customer-service improvements.
Electing Murphy would not be a disaster, but it would be a missed opportunity. The former councilor, who lost his last election amid questions about his absenteeism from City Hall, hasn't even bothered to show up for candidate forums. Nothing suggests that he would do more than the bare minimum at the registry. By nominating Forde, Democrats could at least preserve the chance that the public will get its money's worth from the next register of deeds.