These two reports, published six-plus years apart, portray the civic behavior of Utahns as notably estranged from ‘responsible citizenship,’ Utah’s unique, youthful voter-age demographics notwithstanding:
The solution to the “problem” described in these reports is not simply a matter of increasing the number of people who complete and submit an election ballot – an effort that can merely increase and multiply the effects of ignorance – but rather to increase the level of informed awareness among those who do vote: of the actuality and operation of principles; the cause-and-effect consequences of choices and behavior; of what is required to attain and sustain healthy, functional culture and civil society.
Former Sutherland president Paul Mero often talked about “earned opinion” as being more than merely having ideas one prefers and wishes to share. The value of one’s view is not simply reposed in the fact that s/he has a personal thought or preference but is rather the product of his/her effort first to learn truth and gain some degree of comprehension of its meaning and practical application, and thereby merit the willingness of others to consider that perspective.
In ways not dissimilar, while all citizens have the right to vote, it is folly and an undermining of functional society to seek merely to “get more people to vote.” Perhaps this was a factor underlying Thomas Jefferson’s sage, and prescient, declaration that,
If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be (1816, in a letter to C. Yancey).
Encouraging citizens to exercise their right and privilege to vote – a privilege won and preserved by the blood of patriots – is important and commendable. That citizens exercise this right after having earnestly and meaningfully studied the issues, candidates and predictable consequences is essential.