Millcreek opts into ranked choice voting program for 2023 electionsApr 28, 2023 01:39PM ● By Sara Milano
Millcreek City Councilmembers Thom DeSirant, Cheri Jackson, Mayor Jeff Silvestrini, Silvia Catten and Bev Uipi debate the merits of ranked choice voting during their March 13 meeting. (Screenshot)
By Sara Milano | [email protected]
Millcreek residents going to the polls this November will vote for their councilmembers and mayor a bit differently.
On March 13, Millcreek City councilmembers voted to opt into a ranked choice voting program for this year’s municipal elections, which will elect a candidate for mayor and councilmembers representing Districts 1 and 3.
In a ranked choice voting system, voters have the option to rank multiple candidates in order of preference, rather than casting a vote for a single candidate. Each voter’s ballot still only counts for one vote, but with ranked choice, low performing candidates are eliminated and the voters who ranked them first instead have their votes cast for their second or third choice candidate.
One advocate for ranked choice voting is Councilmember Thom DeSirant of District 2, who was himself elected during Millcreek’s first experiment with ranked choice voting in 2021. DeSirant even published an op-ed in the Deseret News earlier this year making the case for ranked choice voting, calling it “faster, cheaper, and better.”
One benefit to ranked choice voting as opposed to traditional voting is that ranked choice eliminates the need for a primary, shortening the campaign season and making it easier for voters to turn out. Additionally, ranked choice ensures that voters “get to freely vote for whoever they most support, even if that candidate isn’t favored to win,” explained Stan Lockhart of Utah Ranked Choice Voting, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for ranked choice elections in Utah.
While ranked choice voting has been gaining favorability in Utah and across the country (it is now used in state and city elections in Maine, San Francisco and New York City), not everyone believes the system is advantageous.
Millcreek resident David Else told councilmembers that the nature of ranked choice voting violates the principle of one-person one-vote. He believes the result of ranked choice voting “is actually a loss of the voice of the people.” Else also referenced the ranked choice election in Sandy, “where it was only 39% that ended up voting for [the winning candidates].”
DeSirant also made reference to the issues experienced during the Sandy election, where the city had its first ranked choice election between nine candidates, resulting in confusion for many voters as to how to complete the ballot. “The big issue Sandy City had with ranked choice voting is they just didn’t do a great job educating the public,” he said. As a result, “it just was a mess.”
Despite some opposition, the majority of surveyed Millcreek respondents who used ranked choice voting in 2021 to elect councilmembers for Districts 2 and 4 reported that the instructions were clear, the process was easy to use, and that they liked ranked choice voting and preferred it to traditional elections.
The decision to opt in to ranked choice voting is part of a pilot program started by the Utah Legislature, after which the state will decide whether or not to continue. Councilmembers voted unanimously to implement the ranked choice system in the districts who had not used it in 2021, with Councilwoman Cheri Jackson citing the need for a “citywide experience” of the process in order to make a long-term decision.
Candidates for city council in Districts 1 and 3 as well as mayoral candidates will have from Aug. 8-15 to declare their candidacy and elections will take place in Millcreek on Nov. 7.