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Millcreek Journal

Does ranked choice voting make more sense for Millcreek?

Oct 21, 2020 01:06PM ● By Kirk Bradford

By Kirk Bradford | [email protected]

At last month’s Millcreek City Council meeting, the subject of ranked choice voting was presented by Kory Holdaway of Utah’s Rank Choice Voting. Mayor Jeff Silvestrini said, “Millcreek's next opportunity for an election would be the next year and with it comes some new legislation to encourage municipalities to do ranked choice voting in primaries.”

Holdaway explained, “The current national challenges create a situation where ranked choice voting may be the best remedy.” Holdaway detailed how the process of ranked choice voting would work highlighting Utah’s gubernatorial primary election and how the top candidate with 36% of the plurality vote won. The ranked choice voting will save cities money by eliminating the need for a primary election creating much shorter campaigns. 

Salt Lake County uses Dominion election equipment. Holdaway said that, “County clerks in Utah have hated ranked choice voting except for those in Utah County. Ranked choice voting empowered voters to be able to more to fully express their will. Also, the winner could get a majority vote, and longshot candidates did not draw votes away from a candidate who is preferred by most voters. The two cities that ran the trial in Utah in 2019 were Payson and Vineyard. Eighty-six percent of voters liked ranked choice voting and 82.5% wanted to see it in the future.” Holdaway added that 87.5% of the candidates reported a positive experience with it.

Holdaway informed Millcreek residents who are interested in doing ranked choice voting but face opposition from county clerks who don’t want to do it to realize that cities could run their own elections. Holdaway said he has, “Providers ready and willing to do it.”

Silvestrini asked, “Will it still be vote by mail?” 

“Yes, it will,” said Holdaway. “If that is your intention, I suggest Millcreek City Council write a letter to the county clerk to state their intention to do ranked choice voting.”

Councilmember Bev Uipi questioned Holdaway about the details and asked for an, “explanation of the 2020 gubernatorial primary race had ranked choice voting been used at that time.” Holdaway detailed it saying the outcome may have been different had ranked choice been implemented. 

Councilmember Cheri Jackson asked if any other cities have used this process and what the results were. Holdaway said, “Maine and other cities in the country are using it with positive feedback.” Silvestrini asked what the major criticisms were to come up? Holdaway said ranked choice voting was, “Perceived as too confusing and, in some cases, the majority vote did not necessarily win.” 

Councilmember Silvia Catten asked, “What were the costs associated with Vineyard’s and Payson’s elections?” Holdaway said there was a built-in cost of $10,000 per county so each paid $5,000. Uipi asked if the cost would be by population. Holdaway said, “Counties currently charged by the number of registered voters for mailing in and a tabulation of votes came to roughly $2 per registered voter.”

Uipi questioned if there was legislation affecting ranked choice voting. Holdaway said the pilot program bill was different than the current draft bill. House Representative Mike Winder for District 30 said, “I am working on a bill that would mandate all government funded primary elections in Utah to use ranked choice voting.”

Winder expanded saying, “The draft legislation would not force a primary election, but if there was one, it would have to be by ranked choice voting.” 

Holdaway stated, “The ballot would be designed so each of the candidate names were listed down with columns next to them for one, two, three and so forth in rankings.” 

Silvestrini said, “If you look at it in terms of a debate or a town hall meeting for candidates, it becomes problematic because there are too many candidates.” Holdaway responded saying, “Leading up to the gubernatorial race, there were seven candidates for the Republican open seat.” The seven candidates had to reach toward more technological outreach to be able to reach a voter. 

Councilmember Uipi asked about the cost associated with ranked choice voting for Millcreek. Holdaway said, “It would be equal to or less than what the county charged.” Jackson asked about Salt Lake County's equipment and its feasibility. Holdaway confirmed that it was possible for the county to use their existing equipment for ranked choice voting with a two-step process. Councilmember Dwight Marchant asked about the reliability of the vendor if Millcreek ran its own election. 

In closing, Silvestrini said he intends to invite someone from the county clerk's office to present to the Council their view on ranked choice voting. 

The Council has until March 15, 2021 to make a declaration to opt into ranked choice voting for the 2021 election.