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Politics & Government

Is ranked-choice voting too complicated? Utah lawmakers may let cities experiment with approval voting, too

An illustration of several hands putting paper ballots into the election box.
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“We don't want to be put in a position where we are explaining why this candidate dropped out when it looked like they were ahead,” Davis County Clerk/Auditor Curtis Koch said about ranked-choice voting. “That's not a clean, easy order process to explain to voters.”

Utah state lawmakers may add approval voting to a pilot program for municipal elections. Right now, cities are only allowed to try out ranked-choice voting — which 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.

With approval voting, people mark which candidates they’d be OK with being elected. The candidate that receives the most votes wins.

Davis County Clerk/Auditor Curtis Koch said that method is a lot simpler and that’s particularly important in a time when there’s so much skepticism about election security.

“We don't want to be put in a position where we are explaining why this candidate dropped out when it looked like they were ahead,” Koch said about ranked-choice voting. “That's not a clean, easy order process to explain to voters.”

But lawmakers are still hesitant to move forward with approval voting before they know how ranked-choice voting plays out this year. Twenty-three cities have signed up to try it.

A state legislative committee has been discussing the issue for months now.

“Any process that you put out there — you've always got to be evaluating whether or not it has trust and confidence, what's the experience of the voter, how they feel about it?” said Sen. Ann Millner, R-Ogden, who’s on the committee.

Millner said they could have time to review that information by the start of the General Session in January.

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