This used to be the easiest, least controversial editorial every newspaper in America would write every other year. The get-out-the-vote editorial.
It was very straightforward. Almost boilerplate. It’s time to vote. It’s important. It is the only chance most of us have to really have a say in what our government does at all levels. It’s how democracy works. The only challenge, perhaps, was finding a different way to say it.
It was that rare editorial that nobody disagreed with. Or, if they did, no one dared say so out loud.
This year, the whole concept of elections, in Utah and across the nation, has become controversial, even dangerous. Utterly phony accusations and rumors of voter fraud or irregularities have metastasized into threats and acts of intimidation designed to keep people from voting or counting the votes.
Large numbers of politicians and activists — nearly all of them Republican — are deliberately undermining the public’s faith in the election process, laying the groundwork to challenge the outcome if their side doesn’t win.
This year, the challenge is not only to protect the vote, but to protect the voters, and the vote-counters. It’s a challenge for all of us, public officials and voters alike, to rise to. If we don’t want this year’s election to be our last.
Ever since the presidential election of 2020, which Donald Trump lost and Joe Biden won, Trumpists and MAGA Republicans have refused to accept the results of a free and fair election. The armed revolt that targeted the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 16, 2021, failed to disrupt the peaceful transition of power that has long been the pride of our democracy.
But it didn’t end there.
Four of Utah’s 29 counties have at least one person running for county clerk — the chief election officer in each jurisdiction — who expresses doubt about the outcome of the 2020 election and raises unfounded fears about the integrity of the process.
Across the nation, a survey by the Brookings Institution says, there are more than 300 candidates for federal, state and local office who deny the results of the last election and are running on a platform that waives the bloody shirt of election fraud. A great many of them, according to the survey, are likely to ride incumbency or partisan advantage to victory.
In Arizona, there have been reports of armed vigilantes sitting in trucks near polling places, obviously with the intent of frightening lawful voters away from exercising their basic right. ABC reports that local election officials in at least nine states have resigned or retired early, having been threatened once too often by believers of the Big Lie.
This is unacceptable in any nation with pretenses of democracy. It is up to any voter, poll worker or public official to report any acts of voter intimidation or election fraud to the appropriate county, state or federal officials whenever they happen and for those officials to make it clear such attempts will be dealt with harshly.
We said that just about all anti-democracy activists are Republicans. But not all Republicans are election deniers. At least, not in Utah.
Here we are fortunate to have Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson as our state’s elections chief. She — like her boss and predecessor, Gov. Spencer Cox — has demonstrated how seriously she takes the responsibility.
It’s a job that not only entails running elections the right way, but reassuring everyone that that is what is happening. Henderson and Cox have properly had no time for those who undermine the public’s faith in the process and the integrity of election workers at all levels.
The process, as the state outlines, is meticulous and rigid. Mail-in ballots, the way most of us vote anymore, are kept in a strict chain of custody and verified by the book. There’s not a dot of evidence anywhere that Utah’s ballots are being harvested, muled, diverted, uncounted, double counted, lost or hijacked.
This year, as an added layer of security, ballot drop boxes have been placed under 24-hour surveillance by remote TV cameras. It was an expensive step that probably wasn’t necessary for real security. But, if it helps people have more faith in the process, so be it.
Fill out your ballot carefully. Follow all the instructions. Sign where indicated. Mail it, no later than the day before the Nov. 8 Election Day, use one of the many free-standing drop boxes or drop it by your county offices or one of many early voting locations.
Use the state’s website to track your ballot through the process.
Or, if all that newfangled election stuff just doesn’t feel right, show up at the polls on Election Day and vote the old-fashioned way.
The more of us who vote, the more carefully we follow the process, the more difficult it will be for the foes of democracy to steal our election.
This year we have a hotly contested race for the U.S. Senate, one where your vote matters, and positions to be filled in Congress, the Legislature, state school board, county councils and local schools boards. There is one proposed constitutional amendment and various local questions such as Salt Lake City’s parks bond issue.
So, as we say: It’s time to vote. It’s important. It is the only chance most of us have to really have a say in what our government does at all levels
It’s how democracy works.