Utah recorded the fourth highest voter turnout rate in the nation in November's presidential election, possibly marking a reversal of a 20-year trend of declining voter participation.
A recently released report from the U.S. Commerce Department's Census Bureau shows that 72.3 percent of Utahns of voting age went to the polls in November. That's 11.7 percentage points higher than voters posted in the 1988 presidential election, and far above the 61.3 percent turnout nationwide in November.When ranked, Utah is listed behind Wisconsin, Minnesota and Maine. California had the lowest participation rate at 52.8 percent, with Georgia, Hawaii, Tennessee and Texas near the bottom. The numbers are based on the national Current Population Survey conducted in the fall of randomly selected households.
The Census Bureau survey numbers differ from those usually cited by state and county officials who count voter participation. That's because local officials usually only count the percentage of registered voters who cast ballots - not the number of voters among all those 18 and older. Using that method, the state had an 80.81 percent participation rate.
However, the Census Bureau method showed November's voter participation rate in Utah is the highest since the voting age was lowered to age 18 in 1971. In the 1972 presidential election, some 69.7 percent of Utahns of voting age participated in the election. The rate declined to 60.6 percent in the 1988 presidential matchup.
The high Utah turnout came as the nation also posted record voting statistics. Jerry Jennings, author of the Census Bureau study said 61 percent of the voting-age population said they went to the polls in 1992, the highest turnout recorded in the Current Population Survey since the 1972 elections (63 percent).
Despite the high national turnout, Utah actually rose in the rankings with other states from the 1988 presidential election; Utah ranked 6th in voter participation that year.
"The 1992 election may be the beginning of a reversal in the declining voter turnout of the past three decades," Jennings speculated.
The national 1992 turnout rate was 4 percentage points higher than in 1988 (57 percent), which was the lowest turnout recorded in the Current Population Survey since questions on voting and registration were first asked in 1964.
In total, approximately 114 million U.S. residents voted in 1992, compared with 86 million in 1972. According to state records, the number of Utah voters has grown from 480,000 in 1972 to 780,000 in 1992.
The 1992 increase follows record voter registrations prompted by Utahns' interest in gubernatorial races and congressional races as well as the pari-mutuel ballot initiative. Voter dissatisfaction was cited as a possible reason for high registration rates in other areas of the nation.
"All of the increase (in registrations) occurred among voters under 45 years of age. Registration among 18 to 24-year-olds increased from 48 percent to 53 percent. For 25 to 44-year-olds, registration increased from 63 percent to 65 percent," Jennings said.
Utah voter participation
R = Registered voters who voted
V = Voting-age population who voted
R - 77.3%
V - 69.7%
R - 77.79%
V - 69.3%
R - 77.99%
V - 64.9%
R - 76.37%
V - 61.7%
R - 81.96%
V - 60.6%
R - 80.81%
V - 72.3%
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Abstract of Utah, Records of the Litenant Governor's Office