UTAH LEGISLATURE

Utah Senate rejects effort to end ranked choice voting early

Feb 29, 2024, 10:13 PM

Utah County residents vote in-person during the 2020 General Election on Nov. 3, 2020. (KSL-TV)...

Utah County residents vote in-person during the 2020 General Election on Nov. 3, 2020. (KSL-TV)

(KSL-TV)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s experiment with ranked choice voting will continue after a bill that would have ended the pilot program two years early failed to pass.

HB290, sponsored by Rep. Katy Hall, R-South Ogden, was rejected by the Utah Senate in a 12-15 vote Thursday afternoon. It had previously passed the House of Representatives.

Supporters of repealing the program early argued that ranked choice voting – in which voters rank candidates by preference – is confusing and leads to a lack of trust in the election process.

“There is nothing more important to us and to this Republic than having a voting process that people trust,” said Sen. Ann Millner, R-Ogden.

But during Thursday’s debate, several senators argued for allowing the pilot program to expire on its own in 2026.

Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, said cities in his area have saved “significant money” by implementing ranked choice voting, which allows them to avoid holding primary elections.

“I think it’s important to see the data, let the pilot program run,” McKell said, “and let’s reevaluate it once it’s complete.”

A recent report from the Gary R. Herbert Institute for Public Policy at Utah Valley University found transparency is critical for the public to have more confidence in the results of a ranked choice election.

The report recommended changing state policy to ensure results are released “in a staggered or round-by-round manner” as those results are tabulated and lower-ranked candidates are eliminated.

“Moreover, anonymized ranked vote tallies, including how many voters ranked the candidates in any given order, should be made available in an easily accessible format that citizens can use to verify the results of the election,” the report recommended.

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Utah Senate rejects effort to end ranked choice voting early