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Go back to September primary

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Back to the primary election drawing board.

As we noted in our editorial Sunday, the state had a lot of good reasons for switching Utah's primary elections from September to June. But as we cautioned then, "none of these reasons will mean a thing if Utahns don't show up to vote."So much for good reasons. The big winner Tuesday was apathy - by a landslide. Less than 13 percent of all registered voters bothered to cast ballots, the lowest number since the primary changed from September to June following the 1992 elections. This is clearly unacceptable.

The June primary experiment was given ample trials and failed miserably each time. What's next, a 10 percent turnout? Time to admit a mistake was made and go back to the future - a September primary.

The last September primary in 1992 attracted 49 percent of all registered Utah voters. The main reason for the change to June - political parties were tired of long primary seasons in which candidates had little choice but to battle against other candidates from their own parties all summer - is insignificant when put up against the vote totals the change generated.

Tuesday was the defining moment in this exercise of bureaucratic myopia. We repeat what we stated on this page in June of 1996 following a dismal primary showing that attracted just 15 percent of the electorate:

"The solution? Move the primaries back to September and urge the parties to hold their statewide conventions later." That would allow enough time for a spirited debate on the issues before the general election in November.

Unfortunately this year, Tuesday was as much a general election as a primary for a number of offices. Some Republican candidates in the state's largest counties do not have a Democrat to oppose them in November.

Efforts by the Deseret News, other media and Gov. Mike Leavitt, who was criticized by some for launching a get-out-the-vote campaign to increase participation at the polls, obviously were not very successful.

Time for the state to cut its losses and end June's voting version of the Titanic. The Legislature needs to reinstate the September primary during its next session.