As Utah’s Director of Elections, it’s Mark Thomas’ job to head up voter outreach efforts. They spent just under a half-million dollars to get voters to the polls this year. With a number of high-profile and competitive races in 2012, those efforts are magnified.
“In 2004, you had Jon Huntsman in a competitive race against Scott Matheson for Governor. They spent millions of dollars getting people out to the polls. Four years later, Huntsman was running against Springmeyer. That campaign spent about $250,000 on voter outreach. That makes a big difference in my mind.”
Utah has seen one of the lowest voter turnouts in the nation over the last few election cycles after having one of the highest. This year, Thomas says they’re estimating about 75% of registered voters will hit the polls this year. That’s a big jump from 2008, when turnout was just under 69%.
“I would hope it’s higher than 75%. This year we have a presidential race, which is always big. Additionally, a lot of Utahns are excited to vote for Mitt Romney, plus you have some high-profile races on both sides of the aisle. All of these translate to increased turnout.”
Mitt Romney? The race in Utah’s 4th Congressional District between Jim Matheson and Mia Love? And they’re only estimating 75% turnout? Thomas admits that estimate might be on the conservative side.
“Early on in the year, all of the election officials in the state said we have to prepare for a big election. Everything is indicating we are going to have a high turnout. We are going to prepare that way.”
What’s the “blue sky” number for turnout this year? Thomas says 80% is possible.
“I think that would be absolutely awesome. As far as I can tell, 80% would be a lot higher than what we got in a long time. That would be a statement, no doubt.”
Indeed. 1980, which had Ronald Reagan on the ballot, saw 78% turnout. That year had 781,711 registered voters. This year Utah’s rolls have swelled to just over 1.2 million.
Getting those voters to the polls is the tricky part. One big push is toward younger voters.
“We’re having a contest on the vote.utah.gov website between the colleges in the state. They get a point for every student who registers and commits to vote on election day. Often times we work so hard to get people registered, but that doesn’t translate to them voting. Our registration numbers grow, but they don’t vote. We’re trying to work on that at the college level.”
Call it a hunch, but I’ve got a feeling the “Romney Tsunami” will push those turnout numbers north of 75% on November 6.
This is rather startling. The Atari 2600 turned 35 years old this week.
That’s 3 ½ decades of keeping kids inside on perfectly nice days.
Inside little league football:
The Jordan Maroon Mity Mites beat the Herriman Gold team this week to move to 7-0 on the season. They officially clinch a playoff spot.
“The sharpest criticism often goes hand-in-hand with the deepest idealism and love of country.” ~ Robert F. Kennedy