David Op’t Hof: Mail-in ballots and ranked-choice voting are improvements to elections

Democracy is stronger when more of us make informed decisions.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Davis County elections director Brian McKenzie explains the process of mail-in voting the Davis County ballot processing room in Farmington, Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022.

When my ballot arrived in the mail for the 2021 election, I took special interest in it. President Donald Trump had been predicting massive fraud for months — well, years, if you count the “rigged” 2016 election, which was no longer “rigged” when Trump won. I was curious as to how our election could have been “rigged?”

I opened my ballot and studied it carefully to see if it looked legitimate. It had my name and address on it, as well as a barcode. It had the candidates listed for the various offices and seemed clear as to how to use it. There was a place for me to sign and date it as well as a place for my phone number and email so election workers could contact me in the event of a problem.

I’ve voted numerous times and have noticed that election workers are often seniors who seem like they would perform their election duties faithfully. They’re polite, helpful and strike me as everyday folks you might see at church or the grocery store. I couldn’t imagine them participating in a scheme to eliminate votes for only one candidate for one office of all the ones on the ballot (or boost the votes for his opponent) and coordinating that scheme with election workers all over the country. I felt the integrity of our elections was as good or better than anywhere else in the world.

I took special interest in our local election for city council. Our city had decided not to hold primaries for that office (saving the city about $100,000) but opted instead for what was called “ranked choice voting.” Ranked choice voting allows voters to choose from a wider field of candidates (nine in this case) while eliminating the “spoiler” phenomenon where additional candidates take votes from the two leading candidates, leading to a less popular candidate winning.

In addition, because I had the mailed ballot at home, I read about the candidates running for city council. I felt I made a more informed decision than I would have by going to a polling place where studying up on the candidates would have been less likely.

I like mail-in ballots and see no problem with them. I also like ranked-choice voting and believe we should expand its use. I don’t think our primary system is working very well because each major party tends to nominate hard-right or hard-left candidates, leaving voters to choose between the lesser of two evils instead of the best in a field of many candidates.

Furthermore, candidates nominated by the extreme wing of their party are more inclined to vote the will of that extreme wing rather than what is best for all. They are more inclined to obstruct the other side to please their base than to compromise to get something done. We need moderates in government who are willing to meet in the middle.

I’m dismayed that many states are making voting more difficult. Choosing representatives is the primary feature of our democracy and should be made as convenient as possible. Elections shouldn’t just be about winning but should be about representing the populace and making life better for us all.

Mail-in ballots and newer ways of voting, like ranked-choice voting, are improvements to our system of elections, and I believe Utah’s election system is sound and convenient.

Our democracy is stronger when more of us make informed choices and I hope each of us will study the issues and candidates for the 2022 election so that our votes result in what is best for all Utahns.

David Op’t Hof, Lehi, is a retired educator who believes in the United States of America as the light of the world.