Election coverage roundup 02

Poll worker Celestia Frei, of Provo, opens the ballot slot for Allison Fagnant, of Springville, to drop off her completed ballot at the Springville Civic Center as part of the municipal primary election held Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

While Utah led the way in the late 19th century for women’s participation in government and communities, that has not always continued through the past 100 years.

This week, new data was released on women’s participation in voter turnout. According to a study from Utah Valley University, 60.5% of Utah women voted in 2018 — a great increase from 2006 when Utah was the lowest in the nation at 36.8%. Low numbers continued through 2016.

This progress is hopeful and exciting. Today, Utah stands as 11th in the nation for women voter participation. Hopefully in the coming years, we can reclaim our title of No. 1, once held in 1992.

Why does this matter?

Forty-nine percent of Utahns are female. And yet, half of our population is not regularly represented in government, business, education and other key areas.

“As Utah is one of the few states that maintains a caucus convention system, delegates hold a very powerful position in choosing candidates and thereby policy direction,” the research snapshot says. “Surveys showed that delegates (both Republican and Democrat) in Utah tend to be more polarized in their positions than general voters from their respective parties. However, this discrepancy is magnified in terms of gender priorities in the Republican Party; women comprised 56% of Republican voters in 2016, and only 24% of Republican delegates were women.”

Interesting research pointed out by the study’s main proponent, Susan Madsen, is that national research indicates that money is spent differently when women are significantly represented in a state legislature.

What needs to still be done?

Research suggests that women’s voting registration rates have been on an upward trend, but in 2018, there were 316,000 women in Utah who are citizens but were not registered to vote. That means there are thousands of our friends, sisters, mothers and wives who need to register to vote. And it couldn’t be more easy today.

To register online, visit http://voter.utah.gov, where you can register to vote or update your registration. As a state and as counties, we can also do better to reach out to demographics that have shown lower turnout rates, including Hispanic or Latina populations whose turnout is 15% lower than white women.

These voices matter.

To make the best decisions that accurately reflect the makeup of Utah, we need more women voting, more women running and more women sitting in office.

Research from 2017 shows that more women are running for office, but are still significantly underrepresented across the state in local and state government.

Utah County has seen an increase in women in city councils and as mayors. But in the 2019 Utah Legislature, there were 25 women represented in the House and Senate out of 104 total seats equating to 24%; the rate of representation is among the lowest 15 states in the country, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

According to the UVU report, the key to increasing turnout is education.

We must share the stories of current and past women in politics and advocates for social changes so that more Utah women can see and understand their potential impact and future influence.

Our cities and county need to do more to reach out to women and involve them in the voting process; these efforts will propel Utah forward to greater turnout and a greater future.