A new study finds that Utah’s voter turnout continues to slip, and noncompetitive races may be a significant factor.
Utah’s voter participation last year ranked 39th nationally, which is, frankly, pretty dismal. But it wasn’t always like that.
“Interestingly, about 40 years ago, we were much higher than the national average, we had great particpation," says Shawn Teigen, a research director at the nonpartisan Utah Foundation, which published a new report this week on voting trends.
“So you’ve seen participation in elections decrease across the nation, but we’ve decreased faster,” he says.
He says part of their research looked at competitiveness of state races, which has also worsened over time.
“In 2016, 71 percent of the races were not competitive,” he says. “What we mean by being not competitive is there was no candidate from the other party running in the race – or the race was won by more than 30 percent margin.”
Another factor that could be dampening participation is increasing polarization by both parties, and in particular delegates.
Teigen says five citizen-led ballot initiatives currently underway — including one on redistricting — could boost turnout this year if people feel more engaged by the issues.