It is disappointing that Montgomery County, which boasts one of the nation's highest levels of education and income, could not produce more than a 31 percent voter turnout in the Sept. 11 primary.

The stakes were high in this election, especially in the race for county executive. Two diametrically opposed Democratic candidates vied for this seat, a position that has great influence over the financial health and direction of the county, as well as on the quality of basic services. Unfortunately, the quality of life in the county (the envy of every other state jurisdiction) has lulled residents into complacency. Citizens did not make the effort to educate themselves on the candidates and make informed decisions at the ballot box. Rather they chose to sit back and let a small percentage make this crucial decision for them.

County residents who underestimate the importance of local races will be surprised by the significant changes in their lives that come with a philosophically different county administration, whether those changes are good or bad. It's time that residents took notice of the people who are responsible for the welfare of their county. Local races are important.

ELLEN L. COREN Chevy Chase