Local election leaders tout Ranked Choice Voting ahead of so-called ‘No Primary Day’

Aug 6, 2021, 6:16 PM
Some elected leaders are touting Tuesday as No Primary Day.

SALT LAKE CITY — Some Utah election leaders have dubbed Tuesday as “No Primary Day” because 23 cities have opted to do ranked choice voting elections in November’s general election instead of holding a primary.

Benefits to alternative voting

At a virtual press conference Friday, the leaders argued there are several benefits to the alternative voting method.

“From the county administration perspective we’re not administering that election then in the summer, we’re only focused on the fall,” said Utah County Clerk Josh Daniels. “From a voter perspective, I think most voters are familiar with an election in November.”

He also said he believes it plays into the way voters think.

“They don’t think about it  as good versus evil, or A versus B. I think they try to compare the candidates and say, you know of all these non-partisan candidates for City Council, this one is my favorite this one is my least favorite, this one is somewhere in between.” Daniels said.

Many cities will not have a primary

These 23 cities have will have no primary Tuesday: South Salt Lake, Magna, Bluffdale, Draper, Lehi, Payson, Riverton, Springville, Vineyard, Goshen, Newton, Woodland Hills, Genola, Sandy, Nibley City, Millcreek, Moab, River Heights City, Cottonwood Heights, Elk Ridge, Salt Lake City, Midvale, and Heber City.

There are no cities in Davis or Weber County doing ranked choice voting.

A big concern

Weber County Clerk Ricky Hatch told KSL Newsradio, North Ogden’s City Council approached him for advice on what to do.

“The biggest concern that I have is voter confidence,” Hatch said.

He explained that voters may find the process of voting simple enough. Tabulating the votes gets a bit more complicated.

“The thought of me as a clerk, as and election administrator going into the live ballot files and altering votes — moving one vote from one candidate to another — that makes me very nervous,” he said.  “I want everything to be done above board, and visible, and in a certified manner that the voters can have confidence in, and that they [voters] can understand.” 

Hatch said the state has the ability to tabulate ranked choice voting. However, the hard part comes when there are multi-winner races. For example many City Council races will have more than one seat to be filled. The state’s certified election tabulation system does not handle the multi-winner races. Hatch said that’s when you have to export the votes, prep them, and get them into a separate tabulator.

“There’s a manual transfer of file and a manual manipulation that exposes that transmission to risk that in my opinion is above the risk threshold that I would feel comfortable.” Hatch said.

Trusting the tabulators

Hatch said he certainly trusts the tabulators. But as an election official, however,  he doesn’t want to be able to have access to any election results file.

“We want to be protected, and prevented from being able to manipulate anything after the election,” Hatch said.

You can check your local county clerk’s website to find out whether your city has a primary election Tuesday.

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Local election leaders tout Ranked Choice Voting ahead of so-called ‘No Primary Day’