Exciting news from Utah this morning. A record 23 cities have opted in to hold RCV elections in 2021, including Salt Lake City, which boasts a population of nearly 200,000. This nearly doubles the number of cities using RCV in the US. Seventeen of the cities will use RCV to elect a mayor in 2021, and all 23 cities will use RCV for city council elections. This is in no small part due to the massive efforts of Utah Ranked Choice Voting, whose members have been meeting with legislators all year. The group is now hyper focused on both voter education and education for city recorders and candidates.
Utah’s municipal pilot program allows cities to condense their primary and general elections into one election, boosting turnout, saving money on election administration, and creating a shorter campaign season for both candidates and voters.
In February 2021 House Bill 75, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Stenquist, R-Draper, passed the Utah House, followed by passage in the senate in March. HB 75 requires counties to administer elections if a municipality there wants to use ranked choice voting (RCV) as part of a pilot passed in 2018. The pilot, HB 35, allows municipal elections to use ranked choice voting.
For the duration of the legislative session leadership has tried to figure out how to have the best elections, and RCV has been part of the discussion from almost the beginning. In fact, two cities in Utah, Payson and Vineyard, have already successfully used ranked choice voting for city council elections.
“Good governance starts locally, which is why we’re thrilled so many Utah cities have embraced ranked choice voting,” shared Stan Lockhart, former Chair of the Utah Republican Party and advocate with Utah Ranked Choice Voting. “This will be an opportunity for Utahns to test out ranked choice voting ballots for themselves, and we’re confident that Utahns will appreciate being offered back-up choices in the ballot box.”
This is a significant step for the RCV movement at large. Depending on the success of the RCV elections to take place in the cities that have opted in, there is potential for RCV to expand statewide in Utah and, potentially, other cities across the country.
Image credit: Jkinsocal - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24399854