Task Force Will Look at Utah’s Low Voter Turnout

In 2014, Utah had one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the nation. Now lawmakers want to figure out why.

Rep. Patrice Arent, D-Salt Lake City, introduced HB 200, which establishes a task force that will study why Utah voters don't hit the polls and what the state can do to reverse that trend.

"In the 1980's we had one of the highest rates of voter participation in the nation," said Arent. "Now, we're among the lowest."

The bill appropriates $30,000 for the task force which will present their findings and recommendations at the November 2015 interim meetings.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who heads up the state elections office, says he welcomes the effort to understand why voters aren't going to the polls.

"I was disappointed with turnout during the last election," he said. "As we look at voter participation, the numbers we're seeing among the millennial generation is very troubling. Participation is down significantly among that cohort, so anything we can do to learn about voter habits would be valuable."

One place to start might be the increasingly high number of non-competitive elections in the state. According to numbers from the Utah Office of Elections there were 746 races on the ballot in 2014 across the state of Utah. 242 of those races, or nearly a third, had only one candidate on the ballot.

"I'm not sure if that's it," says Arent. "That might be one reason, but there are a whole lot of other reasons that might be contributing. That's why we want to look at it."