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Utah prepares to celebrate first Women’s Voter Registration Day

By Becky Jacobs

As she was growing up, state Rep. Patrice Arent said there was a simple expectation in her family: “Women get involved. Women vote."

And leaders of the nonprofit Voterise are hoping that other women in Utah take that to heart this Valentine’s Day — which is also the state’s first Women’s Voter Registration Day and the 150th anniversary of a Utah woman being the first to vote under an equal suffrage law in the country.

“Women need to get up from the sidelines and start playing the game,” said Hope Zitting-Goeckeritz, Voterise’s director of operations, at a news conference Friday at the Capitol.

Following Arent’s mantra, Voterise announced its plans to get out the vote especially for the holiday. It will host voter registration drives at more than 10 high schools and colleges to get women ready to cast their ballots. The state representative sees that as the first step to “getting involved.”

The rate of women voting in the Beehive State has fluctuated widely in recent decades. Utah plunged from having the highest turnout of female voters in the country in 1992 — known nationally as the Year of the Woman — to the nation’s lowest 14 years later. In the 2016 and 2018 elections, the number of women voting in the state bounced back up again, according to a September report from the Utah Women and Leadership Project.

But there are still 316,000 women here who are citizens but not registered to vote. To try to change that, Voterise created its 2020 Challenge with a goal of registering 20,000 new potential female voters. It kicks off on Feb. 14.

Murray Councilwoman Rosalba Dominguez said she set a personal goal of registering at least 100 women to vote and is challenging other elected officials to do the same. Her focus, she noted, is women of color.

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