Utah’s ranked choice voting program will continue through 2025 election

An effort to end a ranked voting pilot program was voted down in the Utah Senate.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) A sign is fixed to a ballot drop box at West Valley City Hall, Friday, Nov. 4, 2022.

An effort to end Utah’s use of ranked choice voting in some municipal elections was killed in the Utah Senate on the final Thursday afternoon of the 2024 legislative session.

In 2018, Utah lawmakers approved an opt-in pilot program allowing cities to use ranked choice voting in non-partisan elections. In 2023, 12 cities used the system for their municipal elections, which is down from the 23 cities that used RCV in 2021.

Under ranked voting, voters rank candidates from first to last place on their ballot. If a candidate wins a majority of votes when the first-choice votes are tallied, the election is over. If not, the candidate in last place is eliminated and those votes are redistributed to the second choice. That process continues until a candidate wins a majority.

Lawmakers initially authorized the ranked voting pilot program through the 2025 elections, but this year’s HB290 aimed to repeal it early.

Senate sponsor Sen. Ann Millner, R-Ogden, said ranked voting was too confusing for voters to understand.

“I think many people, when they are asked to fill out a ranked choice voting ballot, do not really understand how they’re doing it,” Millner said. “We need to put our focus back on making sure that we are doing the right thing for our basic voting processes and that we don’t confuse people with different processes.”

A recent poll from the conservative Sutherland Institute and Y2 Analytics found that 60% of Utahns believe ranked voting should be an option for local elections.

Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, stood against the repeal effort, arguing the system has given positive results to cities that use it.

“I would never want to adopt this as a statewide program, but it’s been something very helpful,” McKell said.

The bill died on a 12-15 vote on the Senate floor.

This is the second year that Rep. Katy Hall, R-Ogden, has sponsored legislation to end the pilot program. Last year, her proposal died after it was held in a House committee.

Correction Mar. 1, 10 a.m.• This story has been updated to reflect that Utah’s ranked choice voting system will be in place through the 2025 election.