“Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried.”
— Winston Churchill
As this is written, nobody knows the final results of an election cycle that feels as though it started two years ago and was supposed to end Tuesday night.
Even as this is read, we all may still be waiting to find out, in many cases, which candidates were elected and what referendums and initiatives were passed, in Utah and across the nation.
One thing we do know is that Tuesday, in most cases, was the end of a long, hard slog for candidates, members of their staffs and their many, many volunteers. Some of them won. Some of them reasonably thought they had a chance and lost. Some of them knew deep down that they never had a prayer and ran hard anyway.
In order to have a functioning democracy, a state and a nation need all of those folks. People who are willing not just to stand in the spotlight and soak up the glory, but also to make phone calls, knock on doors, debate, and show up at every parade, county fair, community council and Rotary Club meeting and chicken dinner for months on end.
Even those who don’t win play a necessary role. They make the eventual winners work harder, answer more questions, focus their attention on the concerns of their own constituencies. An election that only has one candidate is not really democracy.
And, according to early reports, it seems as though the candidates — winners and losers — did a good enough job of campaigning, canvassing and energizing that voter participation was running at high levels in Utah and in many other places across the country.
In fact, state election officials reported that, even before the polls opened Tuesday morning, a little more than 700,000 Utahns had already cast their ballots by mail or at early voting locations across the state. That’s right at half of the state’s registered voters before traditional Election Day even dawned. The Associated Press, which watches such things very carefully, predicts the final turnout is likely to be more than 900,000 participants out of the roughly 1.4 million registered.
Reasons for such a large turnout include the highly competitive race in the 4th Congressional District — unusual for heavily Republican Utah — between Republican incumbent Mia Love and Democratic challenger Ben McAdams. It’s good to see that all the negative ads in that contest didn’t turn everyone off.
Folks are also likely to be inspired by the initiatives on the ballot, those that would legalize some forms of medical marijuana, demand that the state expand Medicaid eligibility under Affordable Care Act standards and create an anti-gerrymandering commission to draw legislative and congressional districts.
When we have the decency to ask the voters what they think, and give them viable choices, they are showing that they will answer.
It also helps that, apparently, state and county election officials, from Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox on down, are not playing the voter-suppression game that seems to be sucking all the oxygen out of elections in Georgia, Texas and other states.
So, even before we know who won, thanks to all the candidates, volunteers, poll workers, poll watchers and, most of all, all the voters.
See you in two years.