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Politics & Government

Around Two Dozen Utah Cities Will Use Ranked Choice Voting This Year For Their Local Elections

An illustration of several hands putting paper ballots into the election box.
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More than 20 cities will change the way they run their municipal elections this year. They’ll be using ranked choice voting, which lets voters rate their candidates from favorite to least favorite.

Utah cities and towns had until Monday to decide if they want to use ranked choice voting in this year’s local elections. As of Monday afternoon, 23 of them have chosen to do so.

Ranked choice voting lets voters choose candidates in order of preference. If no one gets a majority of votes, the person with the fewest is eliminated. The process continues until there’s a winner.

In 2018, the Utah Legislature approved a pilot program for cities to try out the new system. Only two cities — Vineyard and Payson, both in Utah County — opted in to use it during their municipal elections the following year.

Holladay Mayor Rob Dahle said it’s the city council’s fault residents won’t be using ranked choice voting this year.

“When you change something like the way people are going to tally their vote, there really needs to be some education with your constituents regarding that process,” Dahle said. “We needed more time for transparency in the process than what we had.”

Still, he said there’s a lot to like about ranked choice voting — including saving money on primary elections since those don’t happen with this method.

That’s one of the reasons Heber City Mayor Kelleen Potter said her city opted in. She estimated bypassing a primary will save Heber around $20,000.

Potter also said running elections this way could help people feel like their vote matters.

“It gives people an opportunity to express what they want,” she said. “They can say that's who I really want, even though I kind of don't think they'll win. But then their second choice vote can be for someone else that would likely have a better chance.”

Heber is the only city in Wasatch County that decided to use ranked choice voting this year. Potter said she thinks other cities will be watching to see if that’s something they want to do in the future.

“I suspect it'll continue to grow unless something goes really wrong, but it doesn't look like it,” she said. “It looks like it's just going to keep going.”

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