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When government asks for your opinion, give it

SHARE When government asks for your opinion, give it

A preacher last year called upon his Hispanic community to boycott the census until the federal government comes up with some meaningful immigration reform.

A Hispanic news service issued a plea for U.S. citizens who are registered to vote and who are Hispanic to boycott congressional elections to accomplish the same thing, to force the feds to reform our nation's immigration laws. Withhold your votes from Democrats, it said, until they solve this problem.

Last week, LaPrensa San Diego was among those Hispanic news groups taking the opposite approach. It told Hispanic citizens to get out there and register, to show the strength of their numbers and express their views.

There are a lot of different ways to tackle a political issue, although it's unclear how two entirely opposite approaches could both achieve the desired results.

I'm picking on the immigration issue this week only because it's a great demonstration of diverse ideas about how to impact a single topic.

It doesn't make much sense to me that refusing to be counted or removing yourself from a decision-making process could possibly enhance your ability to be part of the outcome. And that's one of the reasons I'm so stunned at the low voter turnout that we continually seem to have, both locally and nationally, during elections.

America, which prides itself on a democratic process, has a woefully small percentage of people who routinely participate. And that's across our racial, ethnic and other demographic boundaries.

Participation is the equivalent of a megaphone to make your voice more audible. And it's not just true for the hot-button issues. One person's passion may be immigration reform, and another may care a great deal about health care reform — pro or con. To have some say, you have to be heard. Good luck with that if you keep your mouth shut.

If you care about anything at all — education, child welfare, criminal justice, our energy policy, how government runs, the transportation system, taxes, international trade policy, even your neighborhood's rules about how short you must trim your grass — you take part.

You register and convince your like-minded friends to register. Then you show up at the polls and vote, which seems to be a dying art in a country that so often proclaims its love of the Constitution and adherence to democratic principles.

If you feel strongly enough about something — and it really doesn't matter what the issue is, just that it's important to you — it might even be a good idea to call ahead and let the candidates know how you feel and how you'll be voting and why.

To "boycott" without dialogue is as meaningful as walking quietly out of a store when you can't get service. No one even notices.

We recently, in Utah, had neighborhood caucuses to choose delegates to our local and state conventions. The turnout was dismal.

The first time I ever went to one, I was barely old enough to vote and was not quite sure how it all worked. When I got there, a friend and a stranger and I appointed each other to different delegate positions. We were all we had to choose from. How sad is that? It provided a warped view of what's supposed to be a dynamic and representative process. And it turns out the number of no-shows was pretty typical.

It would be great if everyone stepped up to be heard on the issues that are important to us, even if we disagree. I think those who choose not to participate in the political processes that are available to them should refrain from blathering about how things do or don't get done.

Deseret News staff writer Lois M. Collins may be reached by e-mail at lois@desnews.com. Follow her on Twitter at loisco.