Ranked-choice voting set to debut in Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Next year, residents in some Utah municipalities will put a new form of voting to the test.

A bill, passed by the legislature this year establishes a pilot program for ranked-choice voting. It allows local municipalities to participate if they choose to.

During her 10 year run in the Utah House, voting has always been top of mind for Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck.

“It’s the one voice that they have is the way they cast a ballot, how they cast a ballot, and access to the ability to cast a ballot,” said Chavez-Houck, (D) Salt Lake City.

This year, she teamed up with Representative Marc Roberts, (R) Payson, on his ranked-choice voting bill.

“I began exploring the idea of using ranked-choice voting as a way to help voters feel that their voice is really heard,” she said.

That’s because if a voter’s first choice doesn’t win, they can still play a role in the final outcome.

“Ranked-choice voting is the opportunity for voters to not just pick one candidate that they want to vote for, but to rank the candidates on the ballot in their order of preference,” said Justin Lee, State Director of Elections.

Candidates with the lowest vote totals are then eliminated round by round, and the votes are reallocated until the winner meets the victory threshold.

The bill allows local municipalities to put it to use in nonpartisan races through 2026.

“One of the big benefits is that you don’t have a primary election. You just put every candidate on the ballot for a given race or district, and that gets voted on in the general election,” said Lee.

Chavez-Houck hopes as time goes on, more and more municipalities will get on board.

“You see an increase in voter turnout, you see less vitriolic elections because during the campaign season candidates are trying to appeal to the broadest universe of voters, not just to a base,” said Chavez-Houck.

So far, West Jordan and Lehi have officially opted in with the Lt. Governor’s Office, and Salem is expected to.

Others may follow suit as well. The deadline to declare is December 31, 2019.

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