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Politics & Government

Why Don't Utahns Vote? It's Complicated

Photo of a car at a ballot drop box.
Salt Lake County Clerk's Office

Voter turnout in Utah has been on the decline for more than a decade. A new study from the Utah Foundation takes a look at why that might be happening.

Why don’t more Utahns vote? It’s complicated, according to Mallory Bateman, a research analyst at the Utah Foundation and one of the report’s authors.

“The partisan nature of our races. The number of competitive races that exist. And, just kind of the whole caucus convention system can be a little much for people to wrap their head around,” Bateman says.

Jenn Gonnelly is a co-president of the League of Women Voters of Utah. She says they’ve been working to get more people to run for office to create more competitive races, but the potential of a costly campaign scares a lot of people off.

“Why would you, if you are just the person who just who really cares about their neighborhood and really wants to get involved and doesn’t have limitless funds," Gonnelly says. "It’s just a barrier and whether the barrier is there or not, it certainly seems like one.”

While creating campaign donation limits could lead to more competitive races, Bateman says most of the deterrents to voter participation aren’t easily remedied by policy changes. And the changes the state can implement, such as same-day voter registration, and vote by mail, they’re already doing.

“None of these are magic bullets," she says. "And you kind of have to employ all of these different programs simultaneously to get, hopefully, the best result.”

Bateman says the recent switch to vote by mail in several Utah counties did lead to significant increases in voter turnout, but it’s too early to know if it will have a lasting effect. 

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