SALT LAKE CITY — If you vote, you have a chance of changing or maintaining the status quo. If you don’t, you have no chance. So, why don’t people vote? A Utah political expert weighs in on the question.
Huge numbers don’t vote every election
During the 2016 presidential election, 59.2% of the total eligible-voter population in the United States cast a voter. The election of 1908 saw the largest turnout with 65.4% of the voting-age population marking a ballot, according to The American Presidency Project.
In the 2016 General Election, 57.8% of Utah’s voting-eligible population cast a ballot, compared with 55.5 percent in 2012, according to a report by Nonprofit Vote and the U.S. Elections Project as reported by the Salt Lake Tribune.
Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics, joined Debbie Dujanovic and Dave Noriega to explain why people don’t vote and why it is so important to do so.
Debbie said her take on why people don’t vote is because they think their vote just won’t count for much. She asked Perry if he agreed.
“That happens so often,” he said. “We hear it all the time: ‘Why would I vote? It doesn’t matter at all, anyway.’ I think you gave the number one reason right there . . . The reality is, it does.”
When does every vote count? Perry cited the 2018 U.S. House race in Utah when candidate Democrat Ben McAdams narrowly unseated Republican Mia Love by 694 votes.
Why don’t people vote?
“What are some of the best reasons to vote? Give us your top three pitches,” Dave said.
- “Sometimes it is the difference.”
- “It’s too easy to think about your one vote as the thing that changes it or not. There is the collective power of our votes . . . not to just maybe change an election, but also where the country really wants policies to go.”
- “We’re trying to help [younger voters] establish the pattern, the habits for their lives as well.” Perry added that missing a chance to vote makes it easier to miss the next chance. “That’s a whole generation of missed opportunities to really influence the election process,” Perry said.
“Do you think even in a loss that you can send a message?” Dave asked.
“When you’re talking about elective officials, they keep track of who wins, but they also keep track of how close it is on the other side,” Perry said.
Pull the levers of power
Debbie referenced an article in Politico published Nov. 3, 2014, titled, “Why Americans Hate Voting”:
“People feel they’re victims of the process, that politics isn’t something to participate in; it’s something that is done to them. The feeling is getting worse; it’s getting much deeper; it’s covering larger and larger groups within the electorate. . . . Their frustration is much worse than anything I’ve heard before,” said Democratic Party pollster Geoff Garin.
“I can see why sometimes people feel that way,” Perry said. ” . . . Keep in mind everything that’s happening in the federal government, everything that’s happening with our elected officials, these are levers of power. And we as voters have a chance to pull on them to some extent. We do not have to be in the position right now to just let these things happen to us. But I’ll tell you what, if we don’t vote, they will happen to us. That is a self-fulfilling prophecy there that you just referred to.”
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