We’ve all heard stories about possible interference in American elections by foreign states such as Russia, China, Iran and others. It’s become a topic of international dimensions and worldwide concern.
United States government investigative agencies have already discovered some of interference tactics. While our nation’s experts are working hard to make sure there is no cyber intrusion to alter actual election results, it is much more difficult to control or prevent masked influence through social media, secretly funded advertising, manufactured rumors and overtly or subtly indicated preferences. These are just a few examples.
There is an antidote for such interference. It is an antidote with three ingredients.
The first ingredient is to study the issues. It is the responsibility of every voter, who exercises the sacred right of casting a ballot, to learn as much as possible about the candidates and the ballot measures. In national, statewide and local elections, candidates produce campaign information. Local organizations such as the Utah Debate Commission, Weber State University’s Olene S. Walker Institute of Politics & Public Service, The League of Women Voters and the political parties sponsor informational forums. The press and media create news stories with informational content. In Utah, ballot issues are explained through state produced print media and online sites, containing arguments for and against each measure. The information is easily available.
The second antidote to outside interference is simply to vote. The population’s percent of registered voters and the percent of registered voters who cast ballots is shamefully low. We must do better.
The third antidotal ingredient is to access and review a variety of news and information sources. It is human nature to want to associate with personalities and groups of like mind. But when it comes to ingesting information, in order to develop and keep an open mind — indeed a broad mind and a well-informed mind — it is imperative to listen to “the other side.”
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply,” noted Dr. Stephen R. Covey.
Centuries ago, St. Francis of Assisi offered this ever-timely prayer of admonition: “O Divine Master, grant that I may not seek so much to be understood as to understand.”
In keeping with the spirit of understanding, the seven paragraphs below provide a brief description of the issues on this year’s Nov. 6 ballot.
Utah Constitutional Amendment A would make more flexible the property tax exemption already afforded military personnel serving under order of active duty.
Utah Constitutional Amendment B would exempt from property taxes any real property leased from a private owner by the State of Utah or a local government.
Utah Constitutional Amendment C would allow the president of the senate and the speaker of the house, with a two-thirds majority approval of legislators, to call a special legislative session. Currently only the governor may do so.
Utah Nonbinding Opinion Question 1 asks voters if they support increasing the gasoline tax by 10 cents per gallon to fund critical needs in education and important transportation needs such as maintaining local roads and bridges.
Utah Proposition 2 would legalize medical marijuana for individuals with qualifying conditions. However, a recent compromise between supporters of this measure and the legislative leaders of Utah means that a “cleaner” bill will be addressed in a special legislative session following the election.
Utah Proposition 3 would expand Medicaid — a medical insurance program that helps low-income people and those with disabilities — to assist many more-needy individuals. The state’s portion would increase the sales tax from 4.70 to 4.85 percent.
Utah Proposition 4 would create an independent redistricting commission to draft new maps for congressional and state legislative districts.
The Walker Institute will host an informational public meeting on the above issues at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, at Weber State’s Hurst Center Dumke Legacy Hall, 1265 Village Drive, Ogden.
We all must remember that studying issues, voting and gleaning information from a variety of sources serves not only as an antidote to foreign interference, but also to strengthen our community and country through alert citizen participation.