If you voted Tuesday, you can skip this diatribe and go back to eating your Cheerios.
The rest of you, read on. By virtue of sitting out this election, you allowed less than 10 percent of the state's registered voters to select the Republican candidates for one congressional seat, state treasurer and some state legislative races. After all the furor over the split of the Jordan School District, a paltry number of voters turned out for those races, too.
Sure, it's summer, and many of you have your minds on other things. And yes, some of you may be confused or troubled by the closed primary election process used by Utah's Republican Party. Seemingly, requiring people to affiliate as Republicans to participate in the Republican primary scares off or offends a certain number of you. While party operatives contend that requiring people to register heads off attempts by Democrats and others to manipulate elections, more harm is done by excluding people from voting. The conservative 3rd Congressional District hasn't elected a Democrat since Bill Orton, whose third term ended in January 1997. That means the Republican primary is, in effect, the general election for residents of the 3rd District.
For those of you who just didn't bother to vote, shame on you. For those who refused to vote because you were required to affiliate as a Republican, shame on the Utah GOP for establishing a requirement that discourages participation in primary elections. Under the best of circumstances it is difficult to get Utahns interested in politics during the summer. This rule creates another hurdle.
Six-term 3rd District Rep. Chris Cannon was ousted by challenger Jason Chaffetz in Tuesday's election, a loss Cannon attributed to low voter turnout and Americans' frustration with high gas prices and other issues. Cannon may also have been upended by his position on immigration, which has been more moderate than that of many residents of his congressional district.
Interestingly, one of the more strident anti-immigration voices in the Utah Legislature, GOP incumbent Glenn Donnelson, was handily defeated in an interparty challenge by Ryan Wilcox. Wilcox, however, said his victory had more to do with "shoe leather" and the help of volunteers. Chaffetz also attributes his victory to a hard-working grass-roots organization.
Absent exit polling, it is difficult to pinpoint why on a certain day in June one candidate defeats another. The larger concern is the dwindling number of voters taking part in primary elections since the races were moved to June from September. Between that shift and closed primaries, too few Utahns are participating in elections to select their leaders. That's a regrettable trend.