It seems that, in a room full of 100 political scientists, you can easily expect to hear 300 reasons as to why voters don’t participate.
Gerrymandering, unlimited campaign contributions, the caucus system, poor civics education, etc. All of these ideas, and many others, have been argued as to why voters don’t vote. Furthermore, with everyone and their mother holding a theory as to what is causing lower voter participation, the issue can become difficult for lawmakers to wrap their heads around when the rubber meets the road and policymakers actually have to institute policy.
Now, this idea is nothing new. In 2009 the Governor’s Commission on Strengthening Utah Democracy was formed with the mission to review ethics laws, campaign finance laws, redistricting laws and procedures, lobbying regulations, and elections within the state to determine what laws and policies help and hurt the democratic process.
This commission would make several recommendations to the legislature such as:
- passing laws that require disclosure of employment information when donating to a candidate
- requiring that campaign contributions are filed electronically
- making it easier for military members to vote while overseas
- closing the revolving door of lawmaker to lobbyist
- creating an independent commission to address election or campaign complaints
- broader campaign finance reform
- automating voter registrations when one files their taxes
- allowing same-day voter registration
Since 2009, some of these ideas have been implemented, however not all have been put into place – either because lawmakers are unwilling to bring legislation forward, or because the legislature, on the whole, is unwilling to approve such ideas.
Now that five years have passed, and the legislature has all but spoken on issues such as campaign finance, it is time to reevaluate.
That is where HB 200 – Task Force on Voter Participation from Representative Patrice Arent (Democrat – Salt Lake City) comes in.
If successful, Arent’s legislation would have members tapped by the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House to evaluate and study issues related to voter participation and the barriers that may make voting more difficult. These findings would then be presented to the legislature in 2016.
The bill would also allocate $104,000 in order to actually allow the committee to do its work.
Though it would ideal for the legislature to fully implement the ideas presented in 2009 prior to restudying what is and is not working, the reality is that the legislature has done all that it is willing to do with those recommendations. By restarting the process, the newly formed commission will either come up with new actionable policy suggestions or provide greater weight to the suggestions that have not already been implemented.
The small price tag and the importance of the topic make it difficult not to support the legislation. Hopefully, the legislature will agree.
To contact Representative Arent, click here or call 801-272-1956.
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