While they may compete head to head come election season, a key concept unites the Utah Republican and Democratic parties: ranked choice voting (RCV). The method has earned praise from Utah leaders spanning the political spectrum as their parties turn to RCV to conduct currently ongoing virtual conventions.
Once social distancing forced operations to go online, Utah Republicans, whose convention runs April 23 through 25, adopted RCV to simulate the multi-round ballot process of an in-person convention. Instead of listening to in-person speeches and casting multiple time-consuming rounds of ballots, Utah Republicans can absorb video speeches and cast a ranked ballot online.
Utah GOP chairman Derek Brown acknowledged RCV’s benefits, praising the method for saving time and increasing civility in intra-party elections.
“I guarantee every delegate participating would rather do that [rank ballots online] than sit through the possibility of nine or 10 rounds of voting, because that would take several hours,” Brown told Deseret News.
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As the video above notes, if any Republican candidate receives 60 percent support after all rounds are tabulated, they will receive the party’s nomination. If neither of the final two candidates do, both will move on to a primary.
RCV will be especially useful in the race to replace Congressman Rob Bishop in Utah’s first congressional district, where 13 Republicans have thrown their names into the ring. In that race, RCV will allow the Utah GOP to equitably winnow the field and come up with a nominee that is acceptable to the majority of the party. Check out the Utah GOP website to see a great explanation of RCV.
Utah Democrats are also turning to RCV in their virtual convention, which runs April 24 and 25. Similarly to the Utah GOP, candidates seeking the Utah Democratic Party’s nomination must clear the 60 percent threshold in an online RCV election.
According to Deseret News, Utah Democratic Party chairman Jeff Merchant likes RCV so much, “he’d like to see ranked-choice voting stay even after in-person conventions come back.”
“This process has opened our eyes to new ways of doing things,” Merchant said. “Honestly, the sole reason I like it is that I don’t have to sit around and wait for another ballot… It’s bad enough to have to count the ballots once. To have to count the ballots twice or three times is a joke. So I’m fully supportive.”
On the Utah Democratic Party’s convention website, they provide a comprehensive explanation of the party’s RCV process, which includes a link to FairVote resources.
It is no secret that the Covid-19 pandemic has forced political parties to think outside of the box. The fact that both the Utah Republican and Democratic Parties settled on RCV quickly, easily, and fairly to conduct their conventions is a testament to the adaptability and sensibility of the method. If praise from both party chairmen is indicative of anything, it’s this: RCV is non-partisan and common-sense.