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Politics & Government

Legislature Looks For Ways to Solve Plurality Issue in Elections

Brian Grimmett
Government Operations Interim Committee hears presentations about plurality issues in elections

The Utah Legislature is beginning to take a look at how to address the potential plurality issue in primary elections.

In an election, a plurality is when a candidate gets the most votes, but not the majority of them. It’s a situation that is more likely to happen the more candidates voters have to choose from. And that’s exactly the kind of situation that SB54 potentially created by allowing candidates to get on a primary ballot as long as they get enough signatures.

To address this issue, leadership in the House and Senate have asked the Government Operations Interim Committee to take a look at the several options that exist, and offer a recommendation before next session. Republican Rep. Jack Draxler is the co-chair of that committee.

“It would be wonderful if we could reach a consensus," Draxler says. "I doubt that will happen. We may have to go with a majority recommendation to the legislature at large, or we may have no recommendation, which means lets see what happens in 2016.”

The committee is looking at several methods to address plurality outcomes, including using a preferential voting system, holding run-off elections, or sending the decision back to the parties.

Mark Thomas is the director of elections in the Lt. Governor’s office. He says almost any change would require overcoming some obstacles.

“At least with the options that they’re exploring now there will be some additional costs to the state on those different efforts, except the party choice that was considered," he says. "It has a minimal impact on the state.”

Looking at what other states do, 36 don’t address the plurality issue and only 10 use a run-off. 

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