Voices & Choices

Utah Parties Switch to Virtual Ranked Choice Voting Conventions

Utah Parties Switch to Virtual Ranked Choice Voting Conventions

The state of Utah made history last week when both the Republican and Democratic parties held their annual state conventions using ranked choice voting (RCV) in conjunction with online voting. As FairVote’s Adam Ginsburg mentions in his blog post, the chairman for both the Republican and Democratic parties were very supportive of the switch to RCV.

The Utah GOP convention, held April 23rd through 25th, determined which candidates will be on the ballot for the June 30th primary or whether any candidate will advance directly to the November general election. Party rules require a candidate to receive 60 percent support to advance directly to the general election. If no candidate reaches the 60 percent threshold, the two finalists move on to a primary election held June 30th. The Utah GOP convention held elections for Utah’s four congressional districts, attorney general, governor, and statewide offices. The contest for a seat in Utah’s 1st Congressional District, the most competitive race at the GOP convention, included 13 candidates and took 11 rounds to determine the two candidates who would move forward to the June primary election. While the 1st District included the most rounds of counting, it was not the only race that needed multiple rounds to determine the outcome. Eight races at the convention used multiple rounds of counting to determine the winner.

The results from the 1st Congressional District are a perfect example of the positive impacts ranked choice voting can have on our elections. In the first round of counting, the two front-runners only combined for 43 percent of the vote, meaning a majority of voters selected from among the other 11 candidates. RCV allowed supporters of under-performing candidates to continue to have their voice heard in later rounds, even after their first choice was eliminated. The round-by-round results show Kerry Gibson and Blake Moore consolidating support until they’re the final two candidates remaining, proving that they are truly the best choices to advance to the primary election to represent their district.

The Utah Democratic Party held their annual convention April 24th and 25th. Much like their GOP counterparts, their convention used RCV in conjunction with online voting. The Democratic Convention used the same 60 percent threshold as the GOP. If no candidate achieved the 60 percent threshold, the two finalists moved on to a primary election held June 30th. Utah Democrats used RCV for the state’s four congressional districts, attorney general, governor, and party offices. Most races were decided on the first round of counting, with only one race failing to reach a 60% winner in the first round. The lone exception was the 1st Congressional District in which the 2 candidates both failed to earn 60% of the vote and will face off in a primary election in June. 

Both the Utah Republican Party and Democratic Party found that RCV allowed them to conduct safe and empowering elections ensuring every attendees voice would be heard even during a remote convention. Other states are taking cues from Utah. The Indiana GOP is still planning on holding their convention in person on June 20th, but if an in-person convention is unable to proceed, the GOP will be using RCV with vote by mail. Utah’s successful use of RCV by both major parties to determine the candidates who will lead their party into the future demonstrates RCV is a non-partisan solution that all sides of the political spectrum can support.

 

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