State lawmakers vote to advance bill that would end ranked choice voting in Utah

Feb 13, 2024, 3:00 PM | Updated: Feb 14, 2024, 7:58 am

A Utah House committee has voted in favor of a bill that would remove the option for cities to use ...

A Utah House committee has voted in favor of a bill that would remove the option for cities to use ranked choice voting in their municipal elections. (Canva)


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SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah House committee has voted in favor of a bill that would remove the option for cities to use ranked choice voting in their municipal elections.

Rep. Katy Hall, R-Salt Lake City, is sponsoring HB 290, which would end the Municipal Alternate Voting Methods Pilot Project nearly two years early. That’s the project that allows cities to use ranked choice voting if they so choose.

If passed and signed into law, the program would end on May 1.

“This is about voter confidence,” Hall said to the House Government Operations Committee Tuesday.

Twelve Utah cities used ranked choice voting in the 2023 election cycle. That’s down from the previous municipal election cycle in 2021.

Opponents cite resident approval and cost

Millcreek Mayor Jeff Silvestrini asked the committee not to end the program. He said they sent their residents three surveys. In all, about 70% of residents said they understood and liked ranked choice voting.

Millcreek residents voted to use ranked choice voting in 2023.

Rep. Brady Brammer, R-Pleasant Grove, asked Silvestrini if this meant that roughly 30% of Millcreek residents didn’t understand ranked choice voting. Silvestrini said he felt that was correct.

Another commenter who spoke against the bill claimed many ballots in the 2021 municipal elections in Utah County could not be counted because they were not filled out correctly.

Davis County Clerk Brian McKenzie told the committee that ranked choice voting saves thousands of dollars, provided the election is not audited. But, he also noted it is complex. He spoke on behalf of other county clerks who reportedly remain neutral on the bill.

Other opponents were concerned that the proposed legislation could remove choice from cities that want to run their elections a certain way.

Proponents cite confusion, lack of choices for cities

Comments for the bill mostly focused on the confusion surrounding ranked choice voting. Seven of the committee members voted to advance the bill, including Rep. Norman Thurston (R-Provo).

“Sometimes you do a clinical trial with the hope of gathering data and showing that something really works…but, if you find out halfway through the clinical trial that its not working…you don’t go all the way to the end hoping the data reverses itself,” Thurston said.

Four committee members voted against the bill, including Rep. Douglas Welton, R-Payson.

“Some communities … have embraced it and they’ve enjoyed it. And some that said ‘no’, but they’ve had the choice and the ability to make that decision and that determination for themselves,” Welton said.

The bill now heads to the full House for a vote.

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State lawmakers vote to advance bill that would end ranked choice voting in Utah