GOVERNMENT

Online mock election gives voters ranked-choice voting experience

Aug 7, 2019, 4:34 PM
ranked-choice voting comes to salt lake city primary elections...
This sample ballot from FairVote.org demonstrates what a ranked-choice ballot would look like. Image: FairVote.org

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake chapter of the League of Women Voters of Utah is holding an online mock election to give voters the experience of what a ranked-choice election would be like.

Unlike a standard election where voters choose one candidate, ranked-choice allows voters to rank their top choices in order of who they would prefer in office.

“It really adds stability to the campaign process,” said Rep. Patrice Arent, a Democrat in Utah’s 36th house district. “If a candidate is out campaigning, they may talk to someone who says, ‘You know, you’re not going to be my number one choice but maybe you can be my number two choice.’ That candidate is so much less likely to be negative about other candidates.”

Ranked-choice voting allows for a smoother process that saves time, money and helps avoid conflict between candidates, Arent said.

“We see from other states and countries that use [ranked choice voting] it really takes a lot of negativity out of the process.”

After voters turn in their ranked-choice ballots, the process of determining a winner begins.

Vote counters will go through the ballots and sort through the top choices of all voters. After they are sorted, counters will determine if there is a candidate with a 50% majority plus one vote.

If there isn’t, counters will eliminate the candidate with the fewest top choice votes. Then, vote counters will sort through voters’ second-choice votes and apply those to the remaining candidates. They will continue down the ranked lists until there is a 50% plus one vote majority winner.

In doing so, city officials hope elections will be more representative of voters.

“It means that more than 50 percent of the people who voted for you wanted you in office,” said Pam Spencer, Vineyard City Recorder. “The other way, you can have someone who wins with only 33% of the vote meaning 66% of the people didn’t want you. It’s more representative of the voters because then you don’t have a minority vote-getter in office.  With ranked-choice voting you know 50% of the people voted for you.”

Vineyard is one of two Utah cities that will use ranked-choice voting for their upcoming municipal elections. The other is Payson.

Spencer says she pushed for ranked-choice voting because it allows voters to choose who they want to for, rather than just who they want to vote against. It also can help eliminate candidates tearing each other down.

“I get sick of the candidate bashing that goes on and I see all of the ads and everything,” Arent said. “My hope is that [ranked-choice voting] reduces that and [candidates] want to get my second or third vote rather than have me vote against them for the way they are running their campaign.”

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