Legislators and county clerks wrestled Wednesday over whether to pursue “ranked-choice voting,” sometimes called instant runoff voting, to help ensure that election winners are actually supported by a majority of voters. In such a system, voters rank their first, second, third, etc. choices. If no one achieves a majority initially, the lowest-vote-receiving candidate would be eliminated. Supporters of that eliminated candidate would have votes shifted to their second choice. The process would repeat until someone wins a majority. Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck, D-Salt Lake City, has for years pushed bills to allow this type of voting. Legislation on the topic passed the House this year, but it died in the Senate after the Utah Republican Party endorsed the idea to help resolve worries that multi-candidate primaries could lead to winners who achieve small pluralities.
Rep. Marc Roberts, R-Salem, said that in a primary with four candidates, someone now can win with about 25 percent of the vote. Ranked-choice voting, he said, “is the best solution to handle that” and is far cheaper than conducting runoff elections sought by some.
Chavez-Houck and Roberts told that Government Operations Interim Committee that advances in technology make such systems easier to use. The committee agreed to open a file to draft legislation to potentially allow pilot programs or other tests of the system.