In a so-called "off-year" election when there are no presidential or statewide offices up for grabs, voter participation usually declines. And this week's balloting may see the same thing.

That would be unfortunate in Utah because there are some heated congressional races to be decided and the sales-tax initiative that could dramatically affect the state's economy.Sadly, political observers expect that most Americans won't vote Tuesday despite the anger of many people and a "throw the rascals out" mood. A re-election rate for Congress near the usual 98 percent would not be surprising.

In Utah, the lack of a presidential campaign, or governorship or senate races, may also result in lower turnout. That historically is the case. But voters ought to trek to the polls anyway, because local elections can have a tremendous impact on the daily life of citizens.

And unlike national races, close local contests can sometimes be decided by a vote or two. Every ballot cast can be significant.

At stake are congressional seats, state legislative seats, county offices, school board seats, two state constitutional amendments, a variety of local ballot questions and the controversial Initiative A, which seeks to remove the sales tax on food.

Initiative A can have a big impact on every household in Utah and should be reason enough for residents to make sure they go to the polls. If the initiative passes, everybody will feel it one way or another.

Much has been said in recent months about public anger with elected officials, particularly those who handle the nation's business in Washington, D.C. But no person who fails to go to the polls has any right to complain about what Congress does. The same is true of local issues.

The celebrated phrase, "We the people . . ." has no meaning if "the people" do not speak at the ballot box. Utahns should not let this opportunity slide by in silence.