Kelleen Potter: Utah should be using ranked choice voting in the special election

Ranked choice voting helps address speed, cost and other concerns.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) A voter casts a ballot at the Salt Lake County Government Center, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021.

Several elected officials have expressed concerns around the upcoming special election to replace the vacancy in Utah’s 2nd Congressional District. Speed, cost and ensuring a majority winner are some of the concerns that have been voiced from officials, including House Speaker Brad Wilson and Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall.

To help address these concerns in future elections, it’s time to consider ranked choice voting. Ranked choice voting is not new. It has been used successfully in many cities, states and countries, including 20 Utah cities. It is a nonpartisan voting method that makes elections better, faster and cheaper.

How it works

Instead of choosing only one candidate, ranked choice voting gives voters the option to rank all candidates according to their preference (first, second, third, etc.). In each round of voting, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated. When a voter’s number one choice is eliminated, their second choice is included in the count for the second round. This process continues until the final round when one candidate receives more than 50% of the votes and is declared the winner.

Why we should use ranked choice voting

It’s faster. Utahns want to have a representative in Washington for the 2nd Congressional District as soon as possible. With the Legislature’s changes, the primary is set for Sept. 5 and the general election Nov. 21. With ranked choice voting, there would be no need for a primary in the special election process which saves at least 90 days.

It’s cheaper. House Speaker Brad Wilson said the cost of this special election “could be in the millions.” Although the timing of the resignation requires a special election, we still want our leaders to be responsible with taxpayer dollars. The financial advantage of using ranked choice voting would be to eliminate the primary election and the costs associated with it.

Majority rules. Remember how you were taught that in a democracy the majority rules? Twenty-two candidates have filed to run for this seat. They represent five political parties and one is unaffiliated. Although they won’t all make it to the general election ballot, it is possible that in both the Republican primary — 13 candidates filed — and in the general election, the winner won’t get the majority of votes. When a candidate doesn’t have support from a majority of the voters, it can create significant challenges. With ranked choice voting, every vote counts and the winning candidate must secure a majority of votes, guaranteeing that the winning candidate represents a majority of voters.

Utah Ranked Choice Voting is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization here to educate voters and elected officials that ranked choice voting is a better, faster and cheaper way. The time is now. Contact your elected officials and let them know you want ranked choice voting in future elections. For additional information, please visit us online at utahrcv.com or on any of our social platforms.

(Kelleen Potter) Kelleen Potter is the executive director of Utah Ranked Choice Voting in 2022.

Kelleen Potter became the executive director of Utah Ranked Choice Voting in 2022. She previously served on the city council of Heber City and was the mayor from 2018 to 2022. She also was the director of philanthropy for Encircle, a LGBTQ+ youth and family resource center.