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Proposed bill could make ranked-choice voting the standard in Utah

By Ashtyn Asay - Daily Herald | Jan 19, 2022

Rick Bowmer, Associated Press

The Utah Legislature convenes its 2022 general session Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, in Salt Lake City.

Ranked-choice voting could soon be the norm in Utah if a bill introduced Wednesday in the General Session of the 64th Legislature passes.

House Bill 178, which was introduced by Rep. Mike Winder, R-West Valley City, and sponsored in the Senate by Curt Bramble, R-Provo, is entitled “Ranked Choice Voting Amendments.” This bill would require ranked-choice voting to be used in multi-candidate primary and general election races statewide.

Within ranked-choice voting, voters rank candidates in order of preference. The candidate who wins the majority of first-choice votes ultimately wins the election, however, if no candidate wins the majority then the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated and that candidate’s first-choice votes will move to the voter’s second-choice candidate. The process repeats until a winner is chosen.

Along with multiple cities in Salt Lake County, the Utah County cities of Elk Ridge, Genola, Lehi, Springville, Vineyard, and Woodland Hills utilized ranked-choice voting during the 2021 election.

“Overall things went well and we were pleasantly surprised,” Taylor Williams, deputy clerk/auditor over elections in Utah County, said in November after the elections.

A survey at the time found that out of 1,471 voters in ranked-choice cities, 81% of the respondents said it was at least somewhat easy to vote. Of that, 52% said it was very easy.

Other questions including the clarity of instructions on voting were part of the survey. About 90% of respondents said the instructions were at least somewhat clear and of that group, 63% felt the instructions were very clear. The margin of error for this study was +/- 2.6%.

While the bill has only been introduced thus far, if enacted, it would be a significant change for much of the state’s voters. It would eliminate the Municipal Alternate Voting Methods Pilot Project, which the Utah County cities are operating under.

The bill also defines the various thresholds that would need to be met for a recount, depending on the number of total votes in a race. Under the proposed legislation, ranked choice voting would be used for both general and primary elections.

As of early 2022, ranked choice voting is used wholly in Alaska and Maine, and used for local elections in a handful of place nationwide.


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