Posted by Emily Risch on December 10, 2019 at 1:43 PM
FairVote Honors Utahns as Champions of Democracy
Annual Awards Event Honors Utah Leaders and Other Winners from around Nation to Highlight Progress for Ranked Choice Voting and Better Elections
Washington, D.C.--FairVote’s annual “Champions of Democracy” awards ceremony celebrated a remarkable group of leaders in efforts to achieve better elections. Among featured winners were Utah County Clerk and Auditor Amelia Powers Gardner, Mayor of Vineyard Julie Fullmer and Mayor of Payson Bill Wright.
The Utah officials were honored with Local Reform Achievement awards for their leadership on the groundbreaking and successful implementation of ranked choice voting in Vineyard and Payson in 2019. The advocates and award winners were introduced by Stan Lockhart, a long-time civic leader in the state and cofounder of Utah RCV.
County Clerk Amelia Gardner reminded the packed crowd at the U.S. Capitol that ranked choice voting has broad appeal across the political spectrum, which includes support from the conservative grassroots Republicans who brought it to Utah. “This isn’t a partisan issue,” she said. “I ran on a platform of making elections better, faster, and cheaper. Ranked choice voting makes elections better, faster, and cheaper.”
Gardner also emphasized that Utah was founded by pioneers -- and that as pioneers for ranked choice voting, they were continuing the state’s bold history. She praised the “courageous lawmakers” who made it possible for localities to experiment with RCV, and proclaimed that better elections should be a non-partisan topic all Americans can agree on.
Vineyard Mayor Julie Fullmer commended RCV for helping create a “fabulous election” in what is the nation’s fastest-growing city echoing observed evidence in Amelia’s objectives.
“I can attest RCV made our election better, faster and cheaper. RCV created a stronger voice for our voters,” she said. “It truly brought more civility into government, it integrated shared visions, and allowed unheard voices to come forward. The data speaks for itself.”
Mayor Bill Wright noted that this was just his second time to Washington, D.C. “It is such an honor to accept this award,” he said. He later added, “Our recent RCV election was successful. We shortened the election cycle and had good people elected.”
Utah RCV’s Stan Lockhart summarized the case, and noted that RCV in Utah got its start in state Republican party leadership elections. It led to stronger elections, he said, and quickly grew fans within the GOP ranks. “This came from our most conservative grass-roots activists. When Utah’s legislature considered RCV, sponsors included the most conservative and the most liberal legislators. This is not a partisan reform,” he said. “It’s about improving elections and allowing voters to more fully express their will.”
Other honorees included former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic, Congressman Jamie Raskin, Harvard professor Danielle Allen, and other state and local reformers.
“From national leaders to local reformers, a remarkable group of champions are seeking to strengthen our democracy and ensure better elections,” said FairVote president and CEO Rob Richie. “It’s been a year of striking victories in the movement for ranked choice voting in a wide range of states, and we look forward to growing along with our allies and continuing to build on these wins.”
Advances on ranked choice voting in Utah form part of national momentum around ranked choice voting, which has already been used for congressional elections in Maine and in dozens of state and local contexts, ensuring that winners will be elected with majority popular support but without time-consuming and expensive runoff elections which regularly generate lower turnout.
In Utah, Vineyard and Payson avoided the costs of a primary election and allowed a shorter campaign season. About nine in ten voters decided to rank more than one candidate, and about two in three ranked every candidate on the ballot: seven in Vineyard and five in Payson.
In other notable developments from around the country this year, New York City voters adopted ranked choice voting by a landslide for use in all primaries and special elections, and our nation’s largest city will now first use RCV in an open seat mayoral election in 2021. Eleven cities used ranked choice this November, with the five newest cities from a cross-section of states: Utah, Michigan, New Mexico and Minnesota.
FairVote is a nonpartisan champion of electoral reforms that give voters greater choice, a stronger voice, and a representative democracy that works for all Americans.