Deborah Gatrell: It’s time to vote. Read the entire ballot.

(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) Utah voters cast ballots at the University of Utah's Marriott Library in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. Even as parties hold their county nominating conventions leading up to the June 30 primary and Nov. 3 general election, a number of candidates already have secured their re-election without a single vote cast.

Your ballot will be missing something this year.

Ballots will not have a straight-ticket voting option, but this is good. Straight-ticket voting was like intentionally short-sheeting a bed. Straight-ticket voters often skipped the rest of the ballot and missed out on nonpartisan state school board elections, judicial retention elections, important initiatives and constitutional amendments.

On the flip side, two years ago, when Propositions 2, 3, and 4 were on the ballot, many voters went straight to those initiatives and skipped the rest. Finishing the ballot could have reshaped Utah’s Legislature and prevented lawmakers from tinkering with the initiatives or passing a horrible tax reform package last December.

It’s unfortunate that presidential politics suck all the oxygen out of the room every four years. The president actually has very little impact on most of our day-to-day lives.

It’s a subject of much discussion when I’ve taught government classes: Who does what?

A few examples: Roads (and potholes) — state and local government. Garbage pick up and the dump — local government. Schools — state and local government. Community parks and trails — local government. Libraries — local government. Public safety — state and local government. Community events — local government. Taxes — federal, state and local government. Health care — federal and state government. Elections — state and local government.

The American system of government has had political parties since the early days of the republic, and they serve an important role in organizing. However, they have no mention in the Constitution and were considered rather dangerous by President George Washington. Here we are, potentially facing the most contentious election in recent history because of the politicization of every issue of the day by extreme partisans. This is no way to run a country, or respond to a pandemic.

We need good people of integrity in office at every level. While it is true that there are extremists, there are good honorable people running in both parties, too. Our job, our responsibility as citizens, is to choose, but choose wisely. In Utah, there are 15 candidates listed on the 2020 presidential ballot. And you should vote for who you feel would best represent this country.

But. Don’t. Stop. There.

If you care at all about the pandemic response, the quality of our schools, the air we breathe, access to health care, good jobs, fair taxation and honesty and transparency in government, you must finish your ballot. The current state Legislature’s supermajority, which pushed through the deeply unpopular tax reform package last December, is on the ballot.

Half of Utah’s state school board is up for election in the first partisan version of this contest we have ever held. It may well have a tremendous impact on Utah education policy and school safety measures going forward.

There are also incredibly important county races this year, races that will determine the local pandemic response and recovery going forward. Masks or no masks. The health and safety of our families.

Take the time to research candidates and their positions carefully — at all levels. Then vote, in the comfort of your own home, in your pajamas if you prefer, and return your ballot as soon as you can to guarantee your voice will be heard in this historic year.

Utah has seen local elections come down to ties, determined by coin toss, drawing a name out of a hat, etc. Some state races recently have hinged on as few as five votes.

Be sure you can answer proudly when asked years from now, “I voted in 2020!”

It’s time to make your choices. All of them.

Deborah Gatrell

Deborah Gatrell is a social studies teacher in Granite School District, a veteran with 21 years of service in Utah’s National Guard, and a candidate for Salt Lake County Council. Learn more at www.vote4deborah.com.

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