Every time an election day rolls around, it seems you don't have to look too hard to find examples that illustrate what a precious right the franchise is.
This time, the most glaring example is in Zimbabwe. There, President Robert Mugabe is trying desperately to hang onto the power he first assumed in 1980. Plenty of evidence, from eyewitness accounts to videos to reports from credible international organizations, document how Mugabe has lashed out against his opponents in recent weeks.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai defeated Mugabe in a recent election, but the government's "official" results showed the margin of victory was small enough to necessitate a runoff election. Since then, thugs tied to the ruling party have assaulted and murdered people who voted for Tsvangirai the first time around. The opposition party claims at least 70 of its members have been killed. Doctors for Human Rights puts the number at 85.
Meanwhile, Tsvangirai has had to resort to mass e-mails in order to campaign. That is because official state-run media ignore him. His party's secretary general has been imprisoned and charged with treason and insulting the president, among other things.
All of this makes Utah's primary election Tuesday seem pedestrian. But there are many reasons to be thankful for that orderliness, and there is only one way to demonstrate gratitude. That is to vote.
Most of the attention will be focused on the 3rd Congressional District, where incumbent Chris Cannon is being challenged by Jason Chaffetz. The state treasurer's race involves all Utahns and features a battle between Richard Ellis and Mark Walker. That race has been defined by serious allegations of bribery and negative campaigning. Other legislative and school board races also will be decided.
Not all Utahns will be allowed to vote. Only people willing to register as Republicans get the chance. We wish that wasn't the case, but it is.
Those who qualify, or who don't mind registering to vote in important races, need to take their right seriously. They need to study the candidates. They need to ponder what it is that keeps this country's hard-fought and often nasty campaigns from turning violent. That has a lot to do with a hard-won democratic tradition, one that each generation has to preserve and cherish.
Cast an informed ballot Tuesday.