Voters in Utah got one step closer to having the ability to rank candidates in order of their preference in elections when a ranked choice voting bill was presented this week by state Representative Marc Roberts to the joint Government Operations Interim Committee. Made up of both senate and house members, the committee voted overwhelmingly to make it a committee bill for the 2018 session with only one “no” vote.
Last spring, Rep Roberts and Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck backed , HB349, which would have enacted RCV for nearly all elections in Utah. It passed the House by 59-12, but the senate delayed action. A similar bill still may be introduced before the 2018 legislative session.
The proposal advancing this week is more modest. It would allow all cities in Utah to try out RCV. In a posting to her Facebook page, Rep. Chavez-Houck wrote: “The bill will allow municipalities to pilot RCV elections at their prerogative. So excited to take this first step forward to implementing RCV in Utah! Rep. Roberts will be Chief Sponsor for this session. We are on our way! Thanks to all of you who help us inform and educate our legislative colleagues (as well as the public at large) as we go forward.”
During floor debate for HB349, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle also showed broad, bipartisan support for the bill. NPR radio station KUER reported Roberts, a Republican, spoke about how ranked choice voting empowers voters to select the candidates they most closely prefer, instead of just picking the ‘lesser of two evils.’
“With this sort of situation, with ranked choice, you can list your preferences. Currently we have a system where you end up voting against people," Roberts said.
Earlier this year, the two lawmakers co-authored an op-ed in the state’s largest newspaper, the Deseret News titled, “Ranked Choice Voting can help Utah elections.” Jay Evensen, a long-time Deseret News columnist, also wrote a strong commentary on RCV in October 2017.