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The City Journals

City council authorizes ranked choice voting

Jan 28, 2019 01:39PM ● By Cassie Goff

Ranked choice voting gives voters the option to choose their first, second and third preferences for every item on the ballot. (Photo courtesy of the City of Minneapolis)

By Cassie Goff | cassie@mycityjournals.com

Residents will be voting a little differently this election season. With their last official action in 2018, the Cottonwood Heights City Council voted unanimously to adopt Resolution 2018-77, authorizing ranked choice voting.  

Last year, the Utah Legislature passed House Bill 35, the Municipal Alternate Voting Methods Pilot Project, which gave municipalities the option to participate in ranked choice voting. The bill establishes many requirements and procedures of the alternative voting method pilot program running until 2026, including counting of votes, resolution of ties and canvassing.  

Ranked choice voting would keep any one candidate from winning with a low majority, while removing the necessity of a primary and secondary election. Since a primary election wouldn’t be necessary, voters would only have to visit the polls once. 

Ranked choice voting eliminates the possibility of a candidate winning with a low majority, since candidates will only be elected when they gain over 50 percent of the vote. (Photo courtesy of Utah Ranked Choice Voting)

 It also shortens the campaign season, which would decrease the amount of “signs everywhere. There will be a lot less visual blight on residents,” said Councilmember Scott Bracken.

Kory Holdaway from Voterise, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing voter turnout among the younger population, summarized ranked choice foting for the city council on Oct. 9 of last year. 

Ranked choice voting gives voters the option of choosing their first, second and third preferences for any one issue. “Single-winner and multi-winner contests are presented in the same ballot format. Voters rank their choices in order of preference,” Holdaway explained.

As for counting the votes, “If a candidate receives more than 50 percent of votes on the first go-around, then it’s done — that candidate is elected,” said Holdaway. 

If there’s not a 50 percent majority, the lowest voted candidate is eliminated and their voters’ ballots are counted for their next choice. The lowest vote on the first round drops off the ballot and second choice gets on the ballot.

Holdaway showed the city council a video created by the city of Minneapolis last year when they implemented ranked choice voting to further explain the process. 

There is a small chance that voters may find the ballot a bit confusing, since it is brand new. However, Holdaway suggested that “education can be done in the community to take care of confusion. The visual and written instructions are very specific and help voters better understand the ballot.”

“It’s good to educate the public that there’s a new way of voting for city leaders,” said Holdaway. He suggests the city utilize the mailer each voter will receive from the county leading up to the election stating the voter is registered at the appropriate address. This mailer could be a means of education for the voters. 

Holdaway made clear to the council that “there are no requirements for cities to do this.” Cities can choose to opt in during future municipal elections.