On June 28, both the Utah Democratic and Republican parties will be holding their primary elections, and they are doing everything in their power to get you to the polls. As a matter of fact, most counties in the state are making it possible for you to vote without going to the polls at all. They’ve gone to great expense to mail ballots to registered voters, who can fill them out in the privacy of their own homes and then return them via postage-paid envelopes. It really couldn’t be any easier.
Hopefully, this means that more Utahns will actually vote this time around.
It’s no secret that Utah’s voter participation rates have been abysmal in recent years. Consider the 2014 general election, when only 29.6 percent of all eligible voters bothered to exercise their franchise. Yet that number bumped up considerably the following year, which is the first time that some municipalities sent out ballots by mail. Last year, Salt Lake City’s turnout for its hotly contested mayor’s race rose to 55 percent, compared to a meager 13 percent turnout two years earlier. It’s possible that the novelty of voting by mail contributed to a one-time bump up in the numbers, but it seems just as likely that the added convenience will have a lasting impact on the process going forward.
It’s also likely that the high-profile mayor’s race captured the voters’ attention, which can be a difficult thing to do. Presidential races are far more glamorous and colorful than, say, local school board elections, but votes in local contests carry far more weight and can have direct influence on a voter’s day-to-day life. But since school board candidates can’t afford massive TV ad buys, many people don’t even notice that there’s an election happening at all.
That’s unfortunate, especially since it has never been easier to cast a vote. This time around, there are several competitive races on both party ballots. On the Republican side, Utah’s sitting governor is facing a credible challenge in his own party, and on the Democratic side, candidates are vying for the opportunity to face first-term Sen. Mike Lee in a general election. There are also congressional races and, of course, the local races where an individual vote has the greatest amount of impact. It doesn’t take long, and most voters don’t even have to leave home or wait in line.
It’s time to reverse the trend of declining voter participation and make our voices heard. We encourage all Utahns to participate in the democratic process, cast their votes, and let their voices be heard.