clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Task force proposed to study reasons behind Utah's low voter turnout

Last year marked Utah’s lowest voter turnout in 54 years, as only 29 percent of Utahns legally able to vote cast a ballot, lawmakers said Friday.
Last year marked Utah’s lowest voter turnout in 54 years, as only 29 percent of Utahns legally able to vote cast a ballot, lawmakers said Friday.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Last year marked Utah’s lowest voter turnout in 54 years, as only 29 percent of Utahns legally able to vote cast a ballot, lawmakers said Friday.

“Why don’t many Utahns vote or even register to vote?” Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Millcreek, asked during a news conference at the Capitol. “Almost everyone has a theory, but we don’t really know why.”

That’s why Arent and Sen. Peter Knudson, R-Brigham City, have teamed up to sponsor HB200, a bill that would create a legislative task force to investigate the significant drop in voter participation and come up with solutions.

Working with Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, Arent and Knudson revealed their proposal Friday for a task force that would conduct research to find out why Utahns seem to have “given up” on voting. The task force would then offer recommendations that can be presented to the Government Operations Interim Committee in November, Arent said.

“In the early '80s, Utah ranked among the highest states in voter turnout," she said. "Now we rank among the lowest."

Cox said lawmakers don’t want Utahns to lose their legislative representation.

“We really want to understand why people don’t want to vote and why people don’t participate,” he said. “We want to do anything we can to learn about voter habits and … find ways to help and encourage people to get involved in the process.”

HB200’s fiscal note outlines a one-time appropriation of $104,000 from the state’s general fund for task force and research costs.

Arent said the study would gather new information and scrutinize data already collected from Utah universities. The study would also evaluate Utah’s voter trends compared to other states, as well as review any possible administrative barriers that may be inhibiting voter participation, she said.

“I want to make sure that we make it as easy as possible to vote,” Arent said.

Voter turnout seems to be especially low among the Millennial generation, Cox said.

But without proper research, it’s difficult to define what is pushing Utahns away from voting, Arent said.

“We really do need to understand this," she said. "I think it’s a very complex issue. Until we have real data, we don't know."

Email: kmckellar@deseretnews.com