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Election news from across Utah's statewide and national races in 2020.

Utah Organizers Push For People Of Color To Vote In The November Election

A graphic of women of different nationalities and cultures standing together and raising up posters with word VOTE.
Utah groups and community organizers are trying to convince people of color that their vote counts this election.

While white people still make up the majority of eligible voters nationwide, a recent report from the Pew Research Center shows their share of the electorate has decreased, while the share of eligible Latino voters has gone up.

In 2000, white voters made up 91% of Utah’s eligible voters. In 2018, they accounted for 84%. Meanwhile, Latinos represented 5% in 2000 and 9% in 2018. This translates to an increase of 119,000 eligible Latino voters.

The single-digit percentage points may seem small, but Ruth Igielnik, a social and demographic trends researcher at Pew, said it’s emblematic of what’s happening all over the country.

“This is a chance to look forward at who might vote in this election,” Igielnik said. “What we saw across every state was this growth in the Hispanic share of the electorate, which tells us a really interesting national story that the Hispanic share of the electorate is growing across all 50 states and that the white share of the electorate has gone down in every state.”

To energize that voting bloc in Utah, Priscilla Martinez-Jambor started an Ogden-based chapter of the Voto Latino organization in April.

Since July, they’ve registered just 27 people, but Martinez-Jambor said the coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult to get the word out. She said that’s not the only barrier they’re facing, as a lot of people don’t know how or where to vote.

“It has actually been hard for us to register our Latinx community members, because of the misinformation,” she said. “And because a lot of them feel like their vote isn't going to count.”

That sentiment is something Darlene McDonald has heard from Black Utah voters, too. McDonald is the chair of the Utah Black Roundtable and the Utah Democratic Party’s national committeewoman. She said it’s becoming her life mission to convince people to vote, and she’s even starting an organization called Utah Black Voters Matter to prove the point.

“The best form of voter suppression is convincing people their vote doesn't count,” McDonald said. “That's it, really. And that's how you get people to disenfranchise themselves. They stay at home, or they vote for people who cannot win. And what that does is help the status quo.”

McDonald said police reform is one issue motivating Black people she knows to vote as well as Utah’s constitutional amendment banning slavery. But she and Martinez-Jambor agree that the main issue inspiring people of color to participate in the election this year is the race at the top of the ticket.

“I think the big one is the presidential election,” Martinez-Jambor said. “I think the polarization of it is really attracting a lot of our Latino members to go out and vote for the first time, which is amazing.”

Utah’s voter registration deadline is Oct. 23.

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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