Park City couple wants to provocatively energize young voters
August 2, 2016
Dick Gary and Elsa Gary, a husband-and-wife team, want to see plenty of young people at the polls on Election Day in November.
The Park Meadows residents say there are numerous issues critical to voters between 18 years old and 29 years old. Climate change, the federal minimum wage, student loans, gay rights, women's rights, student loans and employment are some of the topics that young voters closely follow, they say.
The two founded Voterise, a Salt Lake City-based not-for-profit organization in 2015 that attempts to engage millennials and others in an effort to increase voter participation. The couple has had a vacation home in Park City for nearly 30 years and moved to the community on a full-time basis in 2015.
"Eighteen to 29-year-olds, these people are going to be leaders of the country," Elsa Gary said, adding that it is "critical to get them involved now."
She said the demographic is not as interested in partisan politics as it is in issues, adding that the bid by Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination inspired the younger voters.
Dick Gary said the younger voters question the state of national politics. He said they have watched as the two major political parties have failed to reach compromises.
"I think, basically, there's a cynicism and a dissatisfaction with what's going on right now," he said.
Voterise hired a firm to conduct a survey of 400 people between the ages of 18 years old and 29 years old who are not registered to vote, inquiring why they were not registered. Nearly half – 48 percent – said they were not interested in politics while 35 percent said they did not have confidence in the system of politics, according to the organization.
The survey takers could select more than one answer. Other answers included that someone did not anticipate their ballot would matter, garnering 31 percent, and that the person did not have the time to register to vote, which was identified by 22 percent.
In a statement describing Voterise, Dick Gary said young people "comprise the single largest potential voting bloc in the nation, bigger than the baby boomers . . . and easier, more effective and less expensive to reach using social media."
The statement also says the demographic did not vote in high numbers in 2014, when congressional and state positions were on the ballot, noting the turnout in Utah was 8.1 percent by people between 18 years old and 29 years old.
"Less than half of Utahns in this age group are registered and they can't vote until they are. So that's our job . . . get them registered," the Gary statement says.
Gary said in the statement the couple became "concerned, or maybe scared is a better word about all the money flooding into politics for the 2016 elections." He said the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans protects and promotes its interests.
"That's not a democracy; that's an oligarchy and that's not us," the statement says.
In an interview, the couple talked about promoting Voterise with messaging that is provocative and said the organization will publicize voter registration that is simple. Voterise intends to operate a booth outside concerts at Deer Valley Resort and wants to have one at the Park Silly Sunday Market. It also wants to work with Park City High School to promote voter registration.
More information about the organization is available on its website, http://www.voterise.org.