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Utah voters becoming more diverse — just slightly

Published May 8, 2013 5:28 pm

Election • Nationwide, one of four voters was a minority in last election. But in Utah, more than nine in 10 were non-Latino white.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

While Utah voters are becoming slightly more diverse, still better than nine of every 10 last year were whites, according to U.S. Census estimates released Wednesday.

Ironically, that comes as the Census reported that for the first time nationally, blacks voted at a higher rate than whites in 2012 — 66.2 percent compared to 64.1 percent. Utah has such a small number of black residents that Census surveys could not provide statistically reliable estimates about black voting rates here.

"Blacks have been voting at higher rates, and the Hispanic and Asian populations are growing rapidly, yielding a more diverse electorate" nationally, said Thom File, a Census Bureau sociologist. "Over the last five presidential elections, the share of voters who were racial or ethnic minorities rose from just over one in six in 1996 to more than one in four in 2012."

But in Utah in 2012, Census surveys estimate that 92.3 percent of voters still were non-Latino whites — which was down a bit from 94.6 percent in 2008.

Utah Latinos • The percent of voters that were Latino was estimated at 4.8 percent last year, up from 2.2 percent in 2008. Other minorities were too small in survey samples to provide statistically reliable estimates for them.

"We're glad that the number of Latinos voting is up, but we're sad that it is still so low," said Archie Archuleta, president of the Utah Coalition of La Raza.

He said that helping numbers to rise a bit were availability of Spanish ballots and Spanish-speaking election workers in Salt Lake County because of federal orders. He said a variety of groups — especially the Democratic Party — also worked harder to target Latinos to vote.

Still, Census estimates say only 20.9 percent of Utah Latino citizens older than 18 voted last year, up from 15.4 percent in 2008. In comparison, 60.4 percent of non-Latino white Utah citizens voted last year as favorite-son Mitt Romney ran for president, up from 54.7 percent in 2008.

The data also show that older Utahns vote at much higher rates than do younger residents.

The highest rate was for those older than 75, with 82.5 percent of them voting. Voting percentages for other groups include: ages 65-74, 78.9 percent; ages 45-64, 63.4 percent; ages 25-44, 44.2 percent; and ages 18-24, 34.8 percent.

Democrats and Republicans say they plan to go after the many younger Utahns and minorities who have not been voting.

"One of our highest priorities is to unlock the vast throngs of Utahns that simply don't participate in our electoral system," said Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, chairman of the Utah Democratic Party. He said the party has registration and get-out-the-vote drives targeting the young and minorities.

Vote blocking? • Dabakis also charges that big-majority Republicans here have blocked reforms that might make it easier for such groups to vote, including same-day voter registration. "There is a serious attempt by some people in the GOP to keep it just one big happy circle of people voting in this state," he said.

Utah Republican Party Chairman Thomas Wright scoffs at Dabakis' charge, and said same-day registration was killed mainly by county clerks concerned about how to handle it. He said he endorsed same-day registration, and says parties should join to resolve problems and pass it. He said he has pushed other reforms, including increasing voting by mail.

Wright said his party also is reaching out to the young by forming college and teenage GOP groups. He said the party also has an Hispanic Assembly, and has been reaching out to minority groups seeking how to better increase their participation. —

Utah voters a bit more diverse

92.3 percent • Percent of voters who were whites in 2012

94.6 percent • Percent who were whites in 2008

4.8 percent • Percent of voters who were Latinos in 2012

2.2 percent • Percent who were Latinos in 2008

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, November 2012 Current Population Survey