POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Utah House passes bill that would end rank choice voting

Feb 23, 2024, 10:51 AM

Example of ranked choice voting ballot. Twelve cities across Utah will participate in ranked choice...

FILE: This sample ballot from FairVote.org demonstrates what a ranked-choice ballot would look like. (FairVote.org)

(FairVote.org)

SALT LAKE CITY— The full Utah House voted to pass a bill that would take away 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 put an early end to the state’s ranked choice voting pilot program.

The program is currently slated to expire in 2026, after the 2025 municipal elections cycle. This bill would end it before the 2025 elections.

On Thursday, the full House voted to advance the bill. However, the vote was far from unanimous with 43 in favor and 26 voting in opposition.

The arguments on rank choice voting

Hall presented her bill to House lawmakers, outlining some of the reasons she wants to put an early end to the pilot program.

She said she’s received complaints from residents of various Utah cities that have used ranked choice voting that the process is too confusing. Opponents of the bill have also cited instances of people filling out their ballots incorrectly.

Additionally, Hall said cities using ranked choice voting for municipal elections and traditional voting for national elections, one after the other is creating problems.

“This is confusing for voters and leads to disenfranchisement and lower voter confidence,” Hall said.

Hall also cited some ranked choice elections where the winner won with a small percentage of the total population. Supporters also believe, based on the data gathered from these elections, the program doesn’t work.

However, there are many on the other side who don’t agree. For one, Rep. Douglas Welton, R-Payson who’s won a ranked choice election, told House lawmakers why he doesn’t want to ditch the program early.

“This is a local control issue,” Welton said. “If your city doesn’t like it and your constituents have never participated in it, they can overturn the city council every two years.”

Welton, and other lawmakers also advocated for just letting the program play out for one more election before making a decision on the program.

Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City also said ranked choice voting can help prevent candidates from attacking each other and promoting more civil conversations.

The bill will now be assigned to a Senate committee for consideration. It needs approval there, from the full Senate and from the governor by Friday, March 1 to become law.

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Utah House passes bill that would end rank choice voting