Frank Pignanelli & LaVarr Webb: It's never too soon to talk about the next election

Published: Sunday, Nov. 21 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

Pignanelli: Some politicos blame voter apathy on a variety of dynamics: one-party domination, the delegate system, reapportionment, etc. But these all existed 20 years ago when Utahns led the nation in election participation. Indeed, many of the highest turnouts in 2008 and 2010 were in Republican homogeneous communities where Democrats are roadkill. A populace that disregards its democratic responsibilities will soon hold other important traditions in contempt. Our leaders must investigate what cultural phenomenon is discouraging this imperative civic responsibility.

Webb: Actually, voter turnout improved quite a bit this year, reflecting more interest in the election. Personally, I think the emphasis should be on voter education, not voter turnout. I would just as soon not have a lot of uninformed, apathetic people voting. Let those who don't care and don't have a clue, stay home. Let crucial decisions about representation and ballot measures be made by engaged citizens who have studied the issues and the candidates. We need more informed, intelligent voters, not just more warm bodies at the polls.

Low turnout is caused by a lot of things: satisfaction with the status quo; a feeling that voting won't change anything, so why bother; good, old-fashioned apathy; disgust with the way campaigns are run and covered by the news media; and disengagement and disenchantment with government because it seems so far away and unapproachable. Just making it easier to vote won't change those underlying problems, and won't get more knowledgeable people to the polls.

By the way, have a great Thanksgiving week!

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Previously he was policy deputy to Gov. Mike Leavitt and Deseret News managing editor. E-mail: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Pignanelli served 10 years in the Utah House of Representatives, six years as minority leader. His spouse, D'Arcy Dixon Pignanelli, is a state tax commissioner. E-mail: frankp@xmission.com.

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