Big voter turnout in 2018 has Utah election officials bracing ahead of next year

Voting Machine

If voter turnout for the 2018 midterms is any indication, the 2020 presidential election in Utah could be a banner year. 

State election officials across the country are bracing for massive voter turnout next year, and Utah officials are expecting higher than normal turnout, too.  

In 2018, more than 75% of registered voters in the state came to the polls – an astonishingly high turnout for a midterm election. For comparison, just over 30% of Utah voters voted in the 2014 midterms. About 37% cast ballots in the 2010 midterm election, and 35% turned out in the 2006 midterm elections.  

The 2018 turnout levels were on par with previous presidential years. Just over 80% of Utah voters turned out in 2012. 2008 saw 68% turnout, while 74% of registered voters hit the polls in 2004. 

20191201 Turnout History

Given the massive spike in turnout for the 2018 midterms, it’s likely Utah could see high numbers again in 2020.  

While Utah election officials won’t put an exact number on projected turnout next year, Justin Lee, the Director of Elections for Utah says they’re anticipating similarly high numbers next year. 

“Based on 2016 and 2018 numbers, and the high profile races that will be on the 2020 ballot, it is not hard to imagine that we will have a record breaking year,” said Lee. 

2020 could certainly be a banner election year in the Beehive State. Republican Donald Trump will be standing for re-election against the eventual Democratic nominee. Voters will also pick a new occupant for the governor’s mansion, the first time that seat has not had an incumbent since 2004.  

Part of 2018’s big turnout can be attributed to three high-profile citizen intiatives that qualified for the ballot last year. There likely won’t be any citizen initiatives on the ballot next year, backers of a proposed carbon tax recently admitted they won’t be able to meet the requirements for the 2020 election. But, there could be a proposed constitutional amendment to repeal the requirement that all income taxes go toward public and higher education, which is part of the legislature’s tax reform push. It’s not out of the realm of possiblity that the chance to weigh in on that measure could bring voters to the polls in 2020.  

The race in Utah’s 4th Congressional District will be one of the hottest in the country next year as Republicans aim to reclaim the seat from Democrat Ben McAdams. As has been well-documented, McAdams is seen as one of the most vulnerable Democratic members of Congress, representing a district President Donald Trump carried in 2016. McAdams squeaked to a win in 2018 by fewer than 700 votes.  

Utah’s 1st Congressional District has an open seat for the first time in nearly two decades as Republican Rob Bishop is stepping down after 9 terms in Congress. However, it’s unlikely that a Democrat will be able to capture this seat, meaning the real contest will be in the June primary. 

All 75 seats in the Utah House as well as half of the State Senate seats will be up for election next year as well. It remains to be seen whether voter dissatisfaction with lawmakers over their efforts to undo two voter-approved initiatives will drive turnout next year. Polling has shown voters are upset that lawmakers replaced Prop. 2, which legalized medical marijuana in Utah, with a revamped program. Legislators also overrode the decision by voters to fully expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act in favor of a costlier, more scaled back initiative.