More Utah cities trying ranked-choice voting

Oct 26, 2021, 7:30 PM | Updated: 11:08 pm

PROVO, Utah – Residents in nearly two dozen municipalities are receiving ballots that look a little different for next Tuesday’s election because of ranked-choice voting.

According to the Utah Elections Office, the following 23 municipalities opted to participate in the Alternative Voting Methods Pilot Project for the Municipal General Election:

  • Bluffdale
  • Cottonwood Heights
  • Draper
  • Elk Ridge
  • Genola
  • Goshen
  • Heber City
  • Lehi
  • Magna
  • Midvale
  • Millcreek
  • Moab
  • Newton
  • Nibley City
  • Payson
  • River Heights City
  • Riverton
  • Salt Lake City
  • Sandy
  • Springville
  • South Salt Lake
  • Vineyard
  • Woodland Hills

Voters in those areas — if a general election is required — will receive ranked-choice ballots, allowing them to rank candidates in order of preference.

“The important thing is that it’s easy,” said Rozan Mitchell, the director of elections for Utah County. ”It’s really not hard and it’s something that we do every day in our lives. We’re always ranking things. Just fill in those ovals and rank your choices.”

Mitchell said ranked-choice voting can save money because the process doesn’t require a primary election to be held.

Results are initially counted using first-choice votes. If no candidate receives 50% of the vote, the candidates with the fewest votes would be eliminated. In the event that a voter’s first choice is eliminated, their vote would be transferred to their second choice and so on.

“Very often we find that voters might be a little bit disgruntled because the person they voted for didn’t win,” Mitchell said. “This way, with ranked-choice voting, if your first choice didn’t win, maybe your second choice did, and you feel a little better about the person that might be taking that office.”

The elections departments in both Utah and Salt Lake counties said it won’t take longer to tabulate ranked-choice ballots. But the results will be graphically displayed differently in order to visually represent the process, which could require several phases to determine a winner.

“It could take three phases to finally get one candidate that has over 50% of the votes,” said Lannie Chapman, the chief deputy clerk for Salt Lake County. “Sometimes, it might only take two. Other cases, it could take up to four or five.”

Chapman said one of the main questions from voters is whether they have to rank all the candidates.

“You don’t have to rank every single candidate in any given contest,” she said. “If you only like your top three, just rank your top three.”

Election officials are also reminding that — unlike last year — ballots that are returned by mail must be postmarked the day before Election Day. Ballots can still be deposited in official ballot drop boxes until 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 2.

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More Utah cities trying ranked-choice voting