This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated.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.
I don't know if there are more or less than 50 ways to leave a lover, but Paul Simon was right when he sang, however you do it, you're going to need a plan.
Research suggests that Simon was right. When someone has a plan, they're much more likely to follow through with their goals. The same holds true for voting.
A growing body of research suggests that we could increase voter turnout numbers in Utah through some otherwise fairly simple behavior modification. This research isn't particularly new, either. Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, economics professors at the University of Chicago, compiled much of this research several years ago in their popular book, Nudge.
Though the book deals with behavior modification of all sorts, the authors cite several studies that deal with voting patterns. One research study discussed by the authors showed that merely asking someone whether or not they intended to vote the day before the election had an impact of increasing voter turnout by 25 percent.
A 25 percent increase in voter turnout in Utah, based on data from the 2010 midterm elections, the last comparable election, would equate to some 150,000 additional ballots. (In 2010, voting hovered in the low 30th percentile, with around 600,000 Utahns exercising their right to vote.) If only this op-ed could produce that kind of change in Utah's electoral trends.
Of course, all of these studies looked at the way interpersonal interactions were used to increase the likelihood of voting. In other words, this op-ed is hardly a silver bullet that will guarantee a 25 percent voter participation increase for readers of the Tribune. But this column could be a good starting point for making a plan with your loved ones.
However, the reasons for voting or not voting are myriad and complex. Many of those reasons are obscured and made more complicated by the unique cultural and political processes here in Utah. But some of those processes are changing.
The caucus system, unless the Legislature overextends itself, will soon be an historical artifact. And Utah leaders are doing the right thing and reducing many of the barriers that prevent people from getting to the polls, like extending early voting periods and making it easier to vote by mail. Some counties have even instituted same day voter registration opportunities, eliminating the barrier that registration deadlines previously had on preventing people from exercising their right to vote.
There is also a push among Utah activists and thinkers to increase voter turnout by registering more people to vote. That won't really solve the problem, though, unless all those newly registered Utahns actually vote.
There may also be darker reasons for Utah's low turnout, including a hostile political climate that's left many of us unable to distinguish between our civic duties and the partisan pandering that appears on 24-hour news networks. If that's true, we'll need more than a nudge to fix low voter turnout, and the the ideologically extreme candidates such turnout ensures. We'll need an overhaul. But let's try nudging first.
Ask someone, "Do you intend to vote?" And then follow-up by asking them how they intend to cast their ballot: through the postal service with their mail-in ballot, at an early voting location, or on election day. And leave it at that. It doesn't really matter how your interlocutor plans to vote, what matters is that they now have a plan.
Isaac Holyoak is communications director for Alliance for a Better UTAH.