Utahns have an important tradition to uphold as they prepare to go to the polls and vote on Tuesday.

It's a tradition of either leading the entire nation or being among the very top states in terms of turning out the greatest portion of registered voters in presidential elections.Sadly, it's a distinction that in some ways is becoming easier to achieve as fewer and fewer Americans take their responsibilities as citizens seriously.

This trend has now reached the point where only 50 percent or less of America's registered voters are expected to cast ballots Nov. 8. This decline puts the United States at the bottom of the voter participation list among the world's democracies.

Though many Americans try to excuse their apathy on the grounds that their individual vote doesn't count, that alibi never was any good and is becoming more indefensible all the time.

Did you know, for example, that in Utah's most recent municipal elections, there were eight cities where local races were decided by only one vote and another six cities with only a two-vote difference between winners and losers?

In 1960, one changed vote in each of the 10 precincts in Cook County, Illinois would have given Richard Nixon the presidency over John Kennedy.

Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, and Rutherford B. Hayes were elected president by just one vote in the Electoral College. The man who cast the deciding vote for Hayes, after that disputed contest went to an electoral commission, was a lawyer from Indiana who was elected to Congress by just one vote.

Still need convincing? Well, in 1982, one vote cast differently out of every 1,250 would have given control of the U.S. Senate to the Democrats instead of the Republicans.

So forget the notion that a single voter doesn't matter. Forget, too, the idea that the election is in effect all wrapped up just because of what the polls and political commentators are saying about the likely outcome. Polls aren't elections. A pundit's vote counts for no more than yours. There's no substitute for actually voting.

As you prepare to vote, a final reminder about a few key guidelines: Pinpoint the issues and causes that matter to you. Decide what changes you feel are in order - and what you want to keep the same. As you ponder, listen to both sides and weigh the alternatives. Look at cause and effect. Consider what you are willing to trade off to get what you want.

Then vote. The officials to be elected and the various ballot propositions to be decided Tuesday will determine how you and your family will live for years to come. Don't let others make those decisions for you. See you at the polls.