In just a few days, all votes will have been cast for the next president as well as other local and federal offices. Millions of people around the nation have already sent in ballots.
In Utah, like much of the nation, younger voters are not casting nearly as many ballots as older voters. Because of the low turnout of Utah’s youngest voters, a group of people formed a non-profit organization called Voterise, to bring awareness to the importance of voting.
Hope Zitting-Goeckeritz, executive director of Voterise, said the organization focuses on increasing engagement among voters, especially those in their late teens and 20s.
“In the 1980s, Utah was fifth best for voter turnout in the nation,” she said. “In 2015, we dropped to 39th. [Voterise has] been working hard on that, and since then, we have gotten our state to 23rd.”
Zitting-Goeckeritz said students and younger voters tend to avoid the polls for a couple of reasons.
“They usually say that either they do not think their vote really matters or they did not know that they were eligible,” she explained.
Zitting-Goeckeritz said minority groups also tend to cast fewer ballots.
“In 2018, white eligible voters voted two times the rate of Latinx people,” Zitting-Goeckeritz said, citing U.S. Census data.
In many cases, including in Utah, voters failed to turn out because they did not speak English. Voterise, Zitting-Goeckeritz said, helped these voters by having ballots in every language, which allows a more diverse demographic to participate.
Women, despite earning the right to vote 100 years ago with the passing of the 19th Amendment, also turn out in fewer numbers, Zitting Goeckeritz said.
“There are 316,000 women [across the state] that are eligible, but unregistered to vote,” she explained. “We want to give them the opportunity to have their voices heard.”
Part of the issue, Zitting-Goeckeritz noted, comes from a lack of voter education among young people.
“When I was in high school, I was never told how to sign up to vote,” she said. “That is one of the biggest problems. Kids kept saying that they have no idea where to go to get information.”
Although deadlines for registering by mail and online have passed, Utah citizens may register to vote and cast a provisional ballot during the early voting period or on Election Day.