Quantcast

Utah ranks last in percentage of residents eligible to vote

Published January 2, 2014 1:10 pm

Census • High number of kids means many are too young to vote.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A lower percentage of Utah residents is eligible to vote than in any other state, according to U.S. Census estimates released Thursday.

That isn't because of some conspiracy, a high number of undocumented immigrants, or laziness about registering. It is simply because Utah has so many children younger than age 18 — the legal voting age.

New estimates put the number of Utahns eligible to vote, age 18 or older, at 2,004,283 — or 69.1 percent of the state's total 2,900,872 population.

The next-lowest is Texas at 73.4 percent. The highest is Maine at 80.3 percent. The national average is 76.7 percent.

Census estimates released last year said Utah had the nation's youngest median age, 29.9 years old, because of its many children and large families (which also rank as the nation's biggest). The median age nationally is 37.4, or 7.5 years older than in Utah.

Also, estimates said that Utah had the highest rate of women ages 15-50 who gave birth in the past year, 77 per 1,000. The national average is just 55.

Pam Perlich, senior research economist at the University of Utah, has often said that such data results from the Mormon culture, reinforced by immigrants from cultures that also value larger families and marry young. However, she says Utah is slowly becoming more like the rest of the country.

The low percentage of Utahns eligible to vote makes for some interesting computations, showing candidates may need less support to win elections than many may think.

If all of the 69.1 percent of Utahns who are old enough to vote actually registered and did cast ballots, a majority needed to win a statewide election would be 1,002,142 votes — or just 34.5 percent of the overall population.

But far fewer people than that actually vote.

In the 2012 presidential election year, only 1,028,786 Utahns cast ballots — or 35 percent of the total population.

The number needed for a majority among those 2012 voters was 514,394, or just 17.7 percent of the state's residents — meaning someone running for statewide office really needs the support of fewer than one of every five Utahns to be elected.