Additional Utah County cities considering ranked-choice voting pilot

Connor Richards :: Daily Herald

More Utah County cities are considering using ranked-choice voting in municipal elections after Vineyard and Payson successfully implemented the alternative voting method.

Ranked-choice voting lets voters rank candidates from first to last. If no candidate gets more than 50% of votes, the candidate with the least votes is eliminated and their votes go to the voter’s second choice. The process repeats until a candidate has a majority of votes.

Vineyard and Payson were the only cities in the state to use ranked-choice voting in November 2019 as part of a pilot program proposed by the Utah State Legislature. Other cities backed out of the pilot over concerns about how to educate voters about the voting method.

But after both cities reported that their elections went off without any hitches, local officials from other cities, including Lehi, are discussing participation in the ranked-choice voting pilot program, which ends in January 2026.

On Tuesday, the Lehi City Council unanimously approved a resolution “to do all things necessary to cause the 2021 Lehi City municipal elections to be held in accordance with the ranked-choice voting process.”

Councilmember Paul Hancock noted that the purpose of the resolution “is just to decide whether the city chooses to stay in,” adding that “we’re not necessarily deciding tonight whether it’s actually going to be something we implement.”

“But if we don’t vote in favor of this, then we’re out for this next election,” said Hancock. “So that’s all we’re deciding tonight.”

Wayne Woodfield, of Lehi, spoke in favor of the alternative voting method and rejected the idea that it was more complicated than traditional voting structures.

Rather than figuring out how to “cast my vote in the way that’s going to be the most strategic,” Woodfield said ranked-choice voting allows voters to choose their favorite candidate “knowing that if my favorite happens to be a nobody,” they still got to vote for their second and third favorite candidates.

“So I think, as a voter, there’s a certain aspect of ranked-choice voting that’s very simple,” Woodfield said. “And I think that’s one of the reasons why in the places where it’s been implemented I think people like it very much.”

Wendy Hart, a former member of the Alpine School District Board of Education, told the Lehi City Council she opposed ranked-choice voting because it can allow “important, well-connected people” to “flood the field and have 15 people run against” an incumbent they don’t support.

“Unless you get 50% (of votes) out of the gate, the more people that run, the greater the chances that you will not be able to get through the process,” said Hart, who lives in Highland.

Councilmember Chris Condie said that “even two years ago when this came up I was adamantly against doing this because it didn’t make sense to me at the time.”

Still, Condie said he was “intrigued” with ranked-choice voting “just because there are so many people that would like to try it.”

Condie voted in favor of the resolution on Tuesday “just to continue the discussion.”

“But I still have hesitations about it,” he said.

The Provo Municipal Council will discuss ranked-choice voting during a work meeting on Tuesday, according to the work meeting agenda.

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