Voter registrations spike as Utahns speak up about tax reform

Local News

PROVO, Utah (ABC4 News) – More than one million Utahns are active registered voters, some of which registered so they could sign the tax referendum against the legislature’s tax reform package.

Roughly three million people live in the Beehive State and as of Tuesday, nearly half of that number (1,454,403) are active, registered voters, according to the state of Utah.

Since December 23, more than 15,000 people have registered to vote. And Salt Lake County alone, saw 5,000 new voters in the last month, which the county clerk’s office said is a significant bump.

Election officials said they can’t confirm all of those newly registered voters are due to the tax referendum, but ABC4 News spoke to new voters who say that’s exactly why they registered.

Loading her dishwasher in her Magna home, Heidi Niitsuma has her hands full as a mother of two. And the idea of registering to vote is not something she’s ever cared to participate in.

But when the Utah Legislature passed a tax reform package that reduces income taxes while raising the sales tax on food, gas and some services, Niitsuma decided it was time to have a say.

“They were so close to getting their numbers,” Niitsuma said. “I felt if one person can start that ripple effect then maybe it’s time to break out of our comfort zones and get our voices heard.”

Checking the oil in a car, Cory Patterson is a small business owner and said this tax would increase his cost of doing business, and that’s not something he wants to do.

“I work in the service industry and that’s one of the things that’s gonna be taxed,” Patterson said. “So, I mean, our business is down in Salem, and so I’m gonna have to look at the people of Salem and say, ‘Hey, I know you don’t like paying much but now we’re going to have to’ because the state is saying, ‘Hey, time to tax services more.’”

Patterson said he registered to vote at an earlier time, but signing is just as important to him as it is to a new voter.

ABC4 News reached out to Fred Cox, a sponsor of the tax referendum, and he said there were a lot of people who registered to vote so they could sign. However, it was not the focus of the project.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Lieutenant Governor’s Office said it’s verified almost 67,000 tax referendum signatures, and nearly 116,000 are necessary to make it on November’s ballot.

In an ABC4 News article Tuesday night, Cox said he and fellow supporters were confident they met their deadline with approximately 152,000 signatures collected statewide.

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