Changes in voting will increase turnout

RoryPenman3_24 Colby Patterson
Rory Penman

Rory Penman

A few weeks ago there was a group of people here at the U collecting signatures to change Utah’s primary election system. They got enough signatures and the bill was forced into the State Legislature. A compromise was reached in which the caucus system will remain, but candidates can now get on the ballot through signatures as well. This change will begin to allow more voices to be heard in Utah — specifically the Salt Lake Valley.

The nonprofit group Count My Vote has been fighting for this voting reform. On their website, they discuss how voting has declined throughout Utah: “In 1960, over 78 percent of Utah voters went to the polls. In 2012, only 51 percent of Utah’s voting age population cast a ballot, ranking Utah 39th nationally in voter turnout.”

The change that this law makes to the primaries will lead to an increase in people voting, because voters will begin to be better represented. This provides an alternative route onto the ballot through collection of signatures. In a press conference, the number of signatures needed was stated, ”Statewide will need 28,000, Congressional districts will need 7,000, State Senate needs 2,000, and State House of Representatives will need 1,000.”

This now allows a new set of voices to be heard at the state government level, which will reflect the changing population of Utah. The population of Utah, and specifically the Salt Lake Valley, is not adequately represented by our state government. The people’s voices no longer accurately reflect them.

If you look at the most recent census information, the demographics of Utah have been and are continuing to change. Utah has been experiencing a general growth in population for the past couple of decades and this trend is continuing: “With an increase of 23.8 percent Utah was the third fastest growing state in the nation from 2000-2010.”

The most interesting thing about this growth is that Utah is rapidly become more diverse: “From the same 2000-2010 period Utah’s White population fell roughly 5 percent, while Utah’s Hispanic population rose by 4 percent. When you look at the distribution of Hispanics in Utah 83 percent of the population is in only four counties.”

When you realize how much the demographics of Utah are changing you also realize how much the State Legislature has not. Both branches of the state government do not adequately represent the population of Utah, and this has led to a huge decrease in voter turnout. By changing the primary system to an alternative signature process, voter turnout will begin to rise again in Utah.

“The primary ballot will likely have more candidates represented because more individuals will have greater access to the ballot.” Now voters in Utah will be able to vote for candidates that actually represent them. This change in the primary system is the beginning step in changing the State Legislature to better represent the people. We saw a huge change in the past decade in terms of population, and we will surely see more changes in the state government.