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SLC to move to ranked choice voting

2020 early vote total exceeds 2016 early votes
Posted at 8:26 AM, Apr 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-21 10:26:38-04

SALT LAKE CITY — The city council has decided to move to ranked choice voting for the next election, joining a number of places across Utah trying the new way of voting.

"Ranked choice voting" eliminates a primary election. Instead, voters will "rank" the candidates in order of preference. As the vote are tallied, the lowest vote-getters drop off in rounds and the votes for second, third and fourth choice, etc., are carried over. Under the system, it is possible for someone who comes in second or third in the first round of voting to actually win because they have enough votes down the line to carry them to victory.

Supporters of ranked choice voting have said it will make for more friendlier politicking. Candidates can no longer rely on a hardcore base to turn out and carry them to victory, so they are less likely to engage in rhetoric for risk of alienating voters still on the fence about them. But opponents argue it's more expensive, requires a learning curve (especially given Utah's vote-by-mail system) and some candidates still could advance without a clear majority.

Last year, then-Governor Gary Herbert endorsed ranked choice voting in an interview with FOX 13. The Utah Republican Party and the Utah Democratic Party have both utilized ranked choice voting in their state conventions.

Two cities tried it last year — Payson and Vineyard — and reported success. The Utah State Legislature, however, did not advance a bill that would have enabled it for statewide elections. Instead, cities were allowed to keep experimenting with it. So far, Draper, Lehi, Payson, Riverton, Springville, Vineyard, Goshen, Newton, Woodland Hills, and Heber City have agreed to try it this year, according to the Lt. Governor's Office.