Utah ranks among the lowest in turnout of young adult voters

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The upcoming election will be the first time Rachel Pearson will be eligible to vote. The Utah native comes from a right-leaning family and sees plenty about the election in the news and on social media feeds.

However, Pearson, a junior from Sandy, will not be voting for anyone in the election this year.

“As far as I’m concerned, Utah always has the Republican vote,” Pearson said. “It’s not like my vote will change anything.”

Like Pearson, some students at BYU feel their vote will not make a difference in the election because they come from a state that always votes for a specific party. Students can be heard discussing the recent presidential debates and upcoming election all throughout campus; however, many of these students will be much less enthusiastic when it comes to Election Day.

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According to recent data from eCampus.com, Utah has the third-lowest voter turnout among the 18-22 age bracket. Only 37 percent of 18–22 year olds in Utah voted in the last election, only Arkansas with 35 percent and Hawaii with 31 percent had worse turnout.

These figures are even more troubling when the national figures are taken into account. The youth share of total votes is on the rise, from 14.3 percent in 2000 to 17.1 percent in 2008. Youth voters with a college degree or some college experience are also twice as likely to vote as their non-college-educated counterparts. If these statistics were true for BYU, there should be a much high percentage of voters.

Quin Monson, a professor of political science at BYU who specializes in elections and voting behavior, said the low turnout among young people can be attributed to two factors.

“The level of competition matters,” Monson said. “States that have no history of competition have lower voter turnout all around. Students are also less likely to vote because they have less connection to the political process at their age.”

Given these criteria, Utah’s low turnout among young people is to be expected because of the lack of political competition. However, young adults at BYU are directly encouraged by the First Presidency before each election to vote. According to church policy, “Members are encouraged to register to vote, to study issues and candidates carefully, and to vote for individuals whom they believe will act with integrity and sound judgment.”

Information on where to vote can be found at www.vote411.org.

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