Webb Wrap: Utah’s big voter turnout . . . Vaccine distribution in Utah . . . Legislative fundraising . . . 10 trends to watch in coming year

Utah is going to end up with 90%-plus voter turnout for the election just completed. That is truly remarkable. It wasn’t many years ago when turnout was very low. Former Gov. Jon Huntsman even convened a commission (I was a member) to consider ways to boost voting and civic engagement. I guess we were successful.

Two things seem to increase turnout: 1. Citizens passionate about candidates or causes and, 2. Ease of voting. This year we had plenty of both. Donald Trump turned out both sides: His ardent supporters and his ardent critics. Nothing was going to keep his adoring base from voting for him; and nothing was going to keep those who hate him from trying to remove him from office.

And it could hardly be easier to vote. Voting my mail means no standing in lines, no taking the time to walk or drive to a voting location. You can fill out the ballot in five minutes and drop it in the mail.

Utah election officials have handled mail voting very professionally and successfully.

Years ago, I wasn’t much concerned about voter turnout. Low turnout meant that people who really cared, and were informed, would be choosing our next leaders. Those who didn’t care much, and weren’t motivated, wouldn’t bother. And that was OK with me.

I’d rather have motivated, informed people choosing our next leaders. Requiring a little effort to vote weeded out those who weren’t paying much attention and didn’t much care. Requiring a little sacrifice, some time and effort, made casting a ballot even more sacred, a fulfilling of duty. I didn’t want to require anything that would impede voting, just make the effort to register to vote and then show up on election day.

But over the years I’ve mellowed a bit. I think it makes sense to make it easy to vote and engage the maximum number of voters possible. I believe we should encourage voting by young people, minority groups, and lower-income groups. I trust Utah voters to make the right decisions.

Plans to prioritize and distribute vaccines. When COVID-19 vaccines start to be available in Utah, who will receive the initial limited doses, and how will the vaccines be distributed?

The Utah Department of Health is holding a briefing for news reporters today to outline the state’s vaccination plan. The briefing will include information about prioritizing who will receive the first doses, timelines, who is responsible for administering vaccinations, and federal, state and local roles.

The briefing will be held at 10:30 a.m. at the Emergency Operations Center in the Capitol, and will be led by Rick Lakin, immunization program manager, Utah Department of Health. Expect news reports on the plan soon thereafter.

Pres-session fundraising begins. Legislative caucus fundraisers are starting to roll out. Utah Republican senators’ annual breakfast will be held Wednesday, Jan. 6, at the Grand America Hotel Grand Ballroom with a VIP reception at 7 a.m. and breakfast at 8. Sponsorships range from $5,000 to $2,000. Masks and social distancing required. Plans may change, depending on status of the pandemic. RSVP by Dec. 22 to Kyle Palmer, [email protected]<mailto:kp[email protected]>.  As other fundraisers are announced, we’ll bring you the details.

Some good reading. The Economist outlines 10 trends to watch in the coming year, from the difficult task of fairly distributing vaccines worldwide, to worsening U.S./China tensions, to what technological behaviors will stick post-COVID-19.

–Traditional higher education does not meet the needs of most students, according to a Wall Street Journal article. “Is this the end of college as we know it? For millions of Americans, getting a four-year degree no longer makes sense. Here’s what could replace it” (Wall Street Journal).

–Why Republican women candidates had such a strong election year. GOP women flipped numerous House seats in 2020 (Vox).

–Some on the far left believe the U.S. Constitution needs to be drastically altered. Their reasoning is spelled out by Richard Kreitner in an article in The Nation subtitled, “Without a practical plan for revising the Constitution, Democrats will be condemned to play by rigged rules.” Kreitner’s concern is that the Constitution does now provide for pure democracy (The Nation).

–Can VP Mike Pence get out from under Trump’s shadow? He’s in a tricky position, and it will get trickier if Trump decides to run again in 2024 (Politico).

Parting Shot. Are the words of English polemicist John Milton, written in 1644, still relevant today? “Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and falsehood grapple, who ever knew truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter.” Should social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter be open forums where truth and falsehood grapple, or should factcheckers decide what gets posted?

If you have a comment, an item you think should be publicized, or just want to tell me I’m an idiot, shoot me a message at [email protected].