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New Study Finds Voter Participation Still Low In Utah

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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.

 

Julia joined KUER in 2016 after a year reporting at the NPR member station in Reno, Nev. During her stint, she covered battleground politics, school overcrowding, and any story that would take her to the crystal blue shores of Lake Tahoe. Her work earned her two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Originally from the mountains of Western North Carolina, Julia graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 with a degree in journalism. She’s worked as both a print and radio reporter in several states and several countries — from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to Dakar, Senegal. Her curiosity about the American West led her to take a spontaneous, one-way road trip to the Great Basin, where she intends to continue preaching the gospel of community journalism, public radio and podcasting. In her spare time, you’ll find her hanging with her beagle Bodhi, taking pictures of her food and watching Patrick Swayze movies.
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