OPINION: Here’s an idea — why not just automatically register everyone to vote?
I’ve got some bad news, Utah. As much as I love this state and as much as I think we’re the best at pretty much everything, there’s one thing we’re not doing that well.
We’re not voting.
Utah has one of the lowest turnout rates in the United States. In the 2016 election, only 57.7 percent of Utahns showed up to cast their votes. Nationwide, that puts us in a dismal 39th place.
That’s pretty bad. And with the 2018 midterms coming up, it’s got me worried. There are some hugely important questions on that ballot, and if we’re not coming out to have our voices heard, we could get stuck with decisions we don’t want that’ll affect us for years.
That’s why, from this week on until you cast your votes in November, we’re going to be talking about why your vote matters every day on Dave & Dujanovic — and what we can do to get those voter turnout numbers up.
Automatic voter registration
Utah might be slagging behind in 39th place, but there’s one state where voter turnout absolutely skyrocketed: Oregon.
Oregon saw the highest voter turnout increase of any state in the United States, with 68.3 percent of eligible voters coming out to cast their ballots in 2016.
How they’d do it? The state started using automatic voter registration. Instead of making people go out of their way to register to vote, they just automatically signed up every person who’d done anything involving the DMV to vote.
You could opt-out, if you really wanted to. The state would send you a little card letting you know you’d been put through automatic voter registration, and, if you were really that upset about it, you could send them a letter asking them to take you off the list.
But most people didn’t do that. Almost half of the people who found out they’d been automatically enrolled went to the polling stations on Election Day. And with that tiny little hurdle out of the way, Oregon’s voter turnout went up by 4.1 percentage points.
Other states are already getting on board with the automatic voter registration idea. California, Vermont, West Virginia, Connecticut, and Alaska are already trying it out. This November, we’ll get to see just how big of a difference it makes for them.
Is this right for Utah?
I’ll be honest – I really don’t think this should be necessary.
Registering to vote isn’t hard. All you have to do is go to a County Clerk’s officer with a piece of ID. They’ll ask you your name, check off a box, and – boom, you’re done. Or, if that’s too much work, you can register online.
If automatic voter registration is going to get more people out to the polls, I’m all for it. But let’s just make sure that, before we go out to those polls, we actually do a little research.
Voting should take a little effort. If you’re just going out to the polls to follow the party line, or if you’re just going to go out and check “yes” on every proposition without bothering to read what any of them say, that’s not going to make Utah a better place to live.
There are some really important questions on this ballot. We’re going to come out to vote a very controversial medical marijuana bill, on a gas tax hike that’s going to benefit local schools, and a lot of other huge questions that really deserve more than a few seconds of thought.
I want everybody to come out and vote. If automatic voter registration is going to help with that, so be it. But I want everybody to vote informed.
Take the time to learn about the questions on the ballot this year – because the way you vote could affect a lot of people.
More to the story
I talked to my special guest Amy Donaldson on the Dave & Dujanovic show about this idea and about how we can get more informed voters at the polls. If you missed the show live on KSL Newsradio, you can still hear it on the Dave & Dujanovic podcast.