Why is Utah Voter Turnout So Lame? The "Lost-Cause" Voter

In the recent presidential election, only three states had a lower voter turnout than Utah. In 2006, Utah had the worst turnout in the nation. Why the apathy? I think it's because many Utahns feel like representative democracy, even in Utah, is a lost cause. Somehow we've got to enlist the "lost cause" voters and get them back on the path of optimism. Lost-Cause voters have martyr complexes, and , in large part, it is their fault that we are a country ruled more and more by a Republicrat oligarchy.

Do you know people who say they don't vote anymore because their vote doesn't count? I do. It's their fault that their country is going down the drain. If they're Latter-day Saints, they might be surprised when they see the big movie of their life on the other side of the veil and discover what might have been if they'd pulled their pathetic heads out of the sand.

Despite leaders of Utah's predominant religion (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) continually admonishing Church members to get to the ballot box, still less than 54% of Utah's voting age population made it out to vote. Why? Because most of the other 46% has given up. They think their vote doesn't count, so they'll show us!! These Lost-Cause voters exhibit gross negligence of their responsibility and a tacit hope that we lose our taken-for-granted freedoms so that they can say "I told you so." Here are two alleged reasons for the Lost-Cause martyr complex, which don't hold water:
  1. The feeling that there were only two candidates in the Presidential race.
  2. A dominant party whose dominance comes at the expense of integrity.
1. Why Do The Major Parties Conspire to Serve Up Crap for Presidential Candidates? Answer: In part because they know this will do more than any other one thing to keep the Lost-Causers at home on election day. It's working.

If Mitt Romney had been the Republican candidate for president this year, Utah would have had a better voter turnout for certain. But I still don't think it would have been that much better, because the Lost-Cause voters still wouldn't have turned out. It is baffling to me (1) that Republicans fielded the worst possible presidential candidate and pretended that he had a chance of winning, and (2) how so many Utahns thought there were only two candidates in the final race. This, though, is largely the fault of the Lost-Cause voter. If, nation wide, the Lost-Cause voters would have come back out of the woodwork, Ron Paul would have become the Republican nominee, and he might even now be the President of the United States. If the Lost-Cause voters had showed up in Utah, 3rd-party presidential candidates would have gotten as many votes as Thing 1 and Thing 2.

George W. Bush got his highest margins of victory in Utah. That's because the Lost-Causers--a huge bloc of the people who really know better--sat out one or both of those elections.

2. The Dominant Party Syndrome Must Break--Through Ethics Reform. There were a boatload of Republican incumbent powerbrokers that I hoped would lose in the 2008 election. Only 1 did. It was because of the inane ethics rules that Utah operates under, which allow incumbents to amass huge war chests, which they can then share with each other. What a racket!!

Brigham Young complained that from a business perspective, Utahns (read: Latter-Day Saints) were no better than the rest of the world. We have the same problem today in our politics, and in some cases, we are measurably worse than other states. Just less than a year ago, over 60% of Utahns thought significant ethics reform was well overdue. But still the success of needed legislation in this regard looks bleak--because so many Lost-Causers have stepped out of the political arena.

If we could get even 10% of the "lost-cause" voters involved in pushing for ethics reform, we could turn the tide and make Utah politics and example instead of the laughingstock that it has become.
. . .

Do you know any Lost-Cause voters? If you do, make sure you remind them that the current economic and political situation is in no small measure their fault. A lot of voters don't know any better when they vote for the lesser of two dumbers and when they keep Party mafioso in the Utah State legislature. But at one point in their lives, every one of the Lost-Cause voters knew better.

That's why in them lies the greater sin.


  1. Frank, you seem to assume that most of the non-voters are lost-cause people. Moreover, you seem to define these people as those that are so dissatisfied with the current system that they simply opt out.

    However, multiple empirical studies have shown that for all but a tiny fraction of political races, the outcome would still be the same even if 100% of eligible people had voted. You see, a lot of non-voters don't vote because they are roughly satisfied with the outcome.

    Undoubtedly some of the non-voters fall into your lost-cause grouping, but the vast majority of non-voters do not. Therefore, your claim that Ron Paul would have been elected president had these people voted is rather silly.

    Moreover, Utah's voting numbers are skewed by its age demographics. When you look at voting percentages by age demographic, Utah fares only somewhat below average instead of third from the bottom. Why? Because Utah has the nation's youngest population.

    Despite all the fervor among the younger generation to vote in this election, the 18-25 crowd voted in only slightly higher numbers than has been the case on par since the passage of the 26th Amendment. And that is abysmally low. The fact is that few younger people bother to vote. Americans in general don't start to vote consistently until they're middle age.

    So, give Utahns a break. They don't turn out in fantastically high numbers to vote, but when age is considered, they don't turn out in horribly low numbers either.

  2. While the "Lost Causers" are a good portion of the problem, equal attention needs to be paid to those who don't care or don't think their vote matters. Case in point - Democrats in Utah. Like the Republicans in Minnesota 20 years ago, Democrats in Utah thought that they NEVER stood a chance of taking Utah. However, as we saw this year, the Dems made inroads due to voter outreach, voter ID and plain old hard work. Republicans should be worried....

    I don't care which party you lean toward, you need to get out and vote. Both parties need to get better (especially in Utah) about their voter outreach if we are ever going to increase our voter turn out models.


  3. Reach,

    I don't know if most of non-voters are lost-causers, but I suspect a significant portion of them are. They are the ones that in the past really thought through the issues, but they've become so disillusioned that they don't vote anymore. Even if only 20 percent of voters were lost-cause types, their entry back into the voting rat race would make a huge difference in about 3 election cycles.

    You seem, based on your regular comments about my perspective on Ron Paul, to hate the man. I'm not sure why. You might think it's silly, but I'm the perpetual optimist.

    By the way, it's not too hard to imagine how he could have at least risen to the top of the Republican primaries if more people would have paid attention. I also think he could then have kicked Obama's butt, but it's easy to monday-morning quarterback that one, and I guess we'll never know for sure.


    Democrats did better in Utah this year, but not as much better as I thought/had hoped they would.

  4. If, nation wide, the Lost-Cause voters would have come back out of the woodwork, Ron Paul would have become the Republican nominee, and he might even now be the President of the United States.

    Or maybe Kucinich or Nader would be announcing members of their their cabinet each day...

    I'm almost more frustrated by those who've been lulled into believing we have a binary choice. I can't believe how many times I'm accused of being cynical for thinking Bill Clinton was little different from a Republican, or suspecting Obama won't produce as much change as his devotees believe. Isn't it much more cynical to think that nobody outside the two machines could possibly make a difference?

    I'm an ardent supporter of election reform. Most self-described conservatives whom I've heard, either personally or via the media, oppose any mention of publicly financed elections on the grounds that it is "big government" and circumvents free-speech. How do you feel about those issues?

  5. Frank,

    I think Utah may be worse than you stated. Isn't it only 54% of registered voters rather than 54% of the voting age population? That would mean that with 67% voter registration (these are the number I remember so they may be a bit off) we only have 36% of the eligible voting age population who actually turned out.

  6. I knew I forgot something - I don't think that the Republicans fielded their worst candidate. I thought they had others who were worse than McCain although you could never convince me that he was better than their 5th best candidate this year.

  7. David,

    You're probably right that McCain wasn't the worst candidate. I was just trying not to offend too many Utahns by my belief that Mitt Romney was not much better than a snake-oil salesman.


    I'm glad you agree there's not much difference between Clinton and a Republican. As well, Obama will surprise a lot of his voters when nothing much changes, but he won't surprise me.

    I think it's much more healthy to understand that we don't have a choice if we limit ourselves to the menu provided by the Establishment.

  8. Frank,

    I don't agree with your definition of a lost-cause voter:

    "I think it's because many Utahns feel like representative democracy, even in Utah, is a lost cause."

    I don't think anyone really believes representative democracy is a lost cause.

    You seem to argue that voters only see the two major party candidates, don't like them, and so don't vote - forgetting completely any third party candidate. But I would argue that many do see the third party candidates and don't like them either.

    I think the real problem with voter turnout, aside from the very interesting note pointed out by Reach, is that no one is involved before the general election. McCain and Obama were the candidates only after months of primaries. I found it astounding that once McCain was nominated, nobody really liked him. Well, somebody voted for him. Unless there is a massive primary voting conspiracy, he was nominated by actual living breathing citizens of the United States.

    The problem is that there were too many complaining about the choices in November and not enough people involved in narrowing down those choices months before - when it really mattered.

  9. We'll have to disagree on whether most Lost Causers know of the 3rd party candidates and don't like them either. Nearly every friend, co-worker, and family member that I talked to had no idea who Ron Paul or Chuck Baldwin were. When I told them about Paul and Baldwin,they went ahead and voted for McCain anyway.

    For those voting-age people who actually voted (the non Lost-Causers), among whom are those who make up the large "Easily Swayed by Advertisement" and "Lesser of two Evils" crowds, it was easy to get them (both the Easily Swayed's and the Lesser Evils) to vote for whoever the establishment wanted them to.

    Like you, I wish more people would put thought into elections and campaigns. Instead, most voters vote out of habit (because Rush Limbaugh told them to?) and think they've done their civic duty if they voted for a doofus without thinking.

  10. Do you really want to know why is it that electorate, in general, is politically inactive? It is because they are apathetic. It is because there is a general disbelief. it is also because they just don't care. There are a myriad of other minor reasons. In addition Utahns are dumbed down and tranquilized. Also they are heavily plugged into the system.

    The election reform is certainly needed. It would be better if political parties financed their candidates campaigns rather than rich monopolists. Rich monopolists must be forbidden to contribute to any political party, moreover directly to any candidate. The government must not finance any candidate to any government post. In other words, none may be financed from the people's budget. Again the political parties must carry the burden to finance their candidates to any government position. Where should they take the money? From their own budget formed by the members' membership fees. No member must be allowed to contribute more than the membership fee, which must be the same for everyone independent of annual income.

    Then and only then we may have fair elections. Only then hopefully we may have full participation of the electorate.

  11. Here's an editorial from Lt Gov Herbert with a new statistic. He says almost 68% of registered voters cast a ballot in 2008.

    The difference in the two stats is that the Lt Gov touts the percentage of registered voters while the other study uses a percentage of eligible voters.

    I'm not sure if that changes the dynamics of this discussion or not, but I thought it interesting enough to share.


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