Associated Press
In this Nov. 3, 2012, file photo, South Floridians mark their ballots during the last day of early voting in Miami Beach, Fla.

Across the land, headlines are predicting a large turnout today — continuing an early voting season that saw long lines in many parts of the country.

Voting patterns in the United States traditionally have been a source of frustration among those who value their franchise and take time to study issues and candidates. Too many registered voters stay home. Too many eligible people never bother to register. Too few people, it seems to many, study the issues and vote beyond their emotions.

Politics, according to conventional wisdom, beats the public senseless with negative ads and incessant telephone calls. In recent days, a viral YouTube video has shown a tiny child crying, telling her mother she is tired of the election. Her mother assures her it soon will be over.

But this is not a day for tears. This is a day that belongs to the people. It is a reaffirmation of the notion that power, in this country, resides with the people. After weeks and months of hearing from the candidates, now it is the people's turn to speak, and word has it the people are not staying home.

We hope that is true even in Utah, a state that once prided itself on an engaged electorate, but that recently has slid to the bottom of the pile in terms of voter turnout.

It hasn't been easy to decipher this disturbing trend. This year, however, many Utahns likely will be motivated by seeing the man who led the Salt Lake Olympics at the top of the GOP ticket. They also may be motivated by some intriguing and competitive races. Chief among these are the race for the new 4th Congressional District, pitting incumbent Democrat Jim Matheson against Republican Mia Love, and the race for Salt Lake County mayor between Democrat Ben McAdams and Republican Mark Crockett.

There can be no denying that the presidential race dominates discussion among voters every four years. However, the vast majority of what voters decide today has to do with state and local issues, right down to the question about whether to raise taxes in Salt Lake County to fund construction of regional parks. Their informed decisions on such matters lend substance to the idea of self-government that has made the United States a world leader in so many ways, despite difficulties and shortcomings.

The Founders established a republic in which people are governed by representatives. Today (and over the last several days with early voting) Americans are determining, vote by vote, the makeup of state legislatures and a Congress that will reflect their desires, concerns and political philosophies. Those decisions will determine the nation's economic future, as well as its relationship with foreign countries. Today's ballots will set the tone for the future every bit as much as ballots cast in the 1930s or the 1980s shaped the nation as it is today.

That is a huge responsibility and a sacred trust. Exercise it wisely and inform yourself before voting, but please take time to exercise it.