Hate the candidates? Utah lawmaker wants to let you rank them on the ballot

Posted at 3:26 PM, Nov 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-05 00:08:32-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- With voters griping that they're being forced to choose between the lesser of two evils, a state lawmaker is proposing a dramatic change in how they're elected.

House Minority Whip Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, is drafting a bill that would implement "preferential voting," where candidates are ranked in order of most preferred to least preferred, doing away with the current "yes or no" system.

"There are so many dissatisfied voters that just felt if they had to choose between two people and the person they felt strongly about isn't a choice, then they're not voting," she told FOX 13.

A ranked-choice ballot lets you pick your preferred candidate and rank the others. The candidate with a majority of the votes wins.

"Let's say that I'm looking at the ballot, I don't want trump to win," Rep. Chavez-Houck said. "I'd rank Hillary Clinton as my first choice and Bernie Sanders as my second choice. That way it takes some ranking away from Trump and some of the other candidates."

Rep. Chavez-Houck said she believes preferential balloting will keep voters engaged, regardless of whether their candidate wins or not. She also said candidates are less likely to pander to their base because they need to appeal to a broader coalition of voters if they want to win.

"You're trying to make sure that everybody sees you as a viable candidate that would truly represent them if you are elected," she said.

Rep. Chavez-Houck said she is still drafting the bill and doesn't know if it would apply to just primary elections or all elections. Australia does do preferential ballots. Minneapolis and San Francisco are among a number of American cities do it on a local level. Maine voters will decide it on a statewide level next week.

She said she hoped to hear from Utah's political parties and voters when she runs the bill in the 2017 legislative session. At an early-voting location in Salt Lake City, some voters FOX 13 spoke with are mixed on the idea.

"I think just a yes or a no," said Reed Walquist. "The other seems, I don't know, too manipulative maybe."

Peggy Gouvsis said she would like preferential balloting.

"If you have a choice, then you say maybe this one is the best. This one is certainly better than the third choice," she said. "Let's give them a choice."