Before Florida legislators vote on a potential “ban” on ranked choice voting, they should look to Utah — a Republican state where 20 cities successfully used ranked choice voting in nonpartisan elections this past November.
Ranked choice voting (RCV) has a long history in Utah and has been used in state and county Republican Party elections going back to 2002. Starting in 2019, as part of a statewide pilot program, Utah cities have had the option to use RCV for their nonpartisan elections.
I’ve been active in the Utah Republican Party for many years, including as party chair. While RCV has had conservative support dating back even before 2002, some of my colleagues and I were initially skeptical. But I’ve come to believe that RCV is a faster, cheaper, and better way to run our local elections in Utah.
Traditionally, Utah’s local elections include a Preliminary Election in August to narrow down the field, and then a General Election in November between the top candidates. With RCV, cities can replace two elections with one — shortening the campaign season and reducing the cost to taxpayers. Instead of having to go the polls twice (which data shows greatly reduces turnout), voters only have to go once!
Ranked choice voting is also an overall better experience for the voter. With RCV, you can vote your conscience and rank each candidate by preference, without strategically voting for the “lesser of two evils” or worrying about vote splitting and so-called “spoiler” candidates. RCV simply cures those problems. Now you can vote for someone and not against someone.
With ranked choice voting, voters also have a reason to learn more about the candidates in the race. RCV is constitutional and protects “one-person, one vote” — though your one vote may end up counting for your second or third choice instead of your first. And, as our former Republican Gov. Gary Herbert said when he expressed his support for RCV, it can “bring a more civil campaign” that allows voters and candidates alike to “concentrate on the issues at hand.” In his interview, Gov. Herbert endorsed the idea of Utah expanding ranked choice voting. “I like ranked choice voting. I think it’s a good way. We’ve done it with some of our conventions on the Republican side of the ledger. I think ranked voting can work and one I actually like,” Gov. Herbert said.
Most importantly, remember that RCV doesn’t help any one Party or ideology; rather, the candidate with the broadest and deepest support gets elected in an RCV election. This is true in partisan and nonpartisan elections alike — for example, Glenn Youngkin was nominated through an RCV convention in Virginia and became its first Republican governor in nearly a decade.
In Utah, it’s clear that voters like and understand RCV. In a November 2021 poll conducted by Y2 Analytics, 81% of voters said they found RCV easy and 88% said they were satisfied with the voting method. 60% said they were more likely to vote for their favorite candidate than in the traditional method. Our top-tier election administrators — also a strength in Florida — were able to conduct RCV elections with transparency and full integrity, showing round-by-round counts starting on election night.
RCV could be well-suited for Florida cities and counties on an opt-in basis. Just like Utah, many Florida cities have costly, low-turnout runoff elections for their local races. Like Utah, Florida is a Republican state where taxpayers want effective, innovative, limited government and local rule instead of top-down mandates.
It’s clear that ranked choice voting has a solid foundation in Utah. It’s a simple, common-sense reform. It’s been debated, tested and proven successful. Voters like it, and our election administrators make it work.
Floridians could follow Utah’s lead and consider whether RCV could make their local elections faster, cheaper and better. They shouldn’t close the door to innovation.
Stan Lockhart is a former Republican Party chair in Utah and directs Utah Ranked Choice Voting. He has served for 20 years on the Utah Republican Party State Central Committee.
February 7, 2022 at 2:07 pm
Yes, ranked-choice voting has a few positives: it’s a simple common-sense reform, is well tested, has a long track record of success, voters like it, election administrators can make it work, etc. But unfortunately RCV gives those pesky voters more influence in election outcomes than they already have and it reduces the power of political parties – especially their extreme wings. Florida needs to be careful, once on that slippery slope toward protecting democracy there may be no turning back.
February 7, 2022 at 4:06 pm
Our political systems need help, congress is more polarized than ever and both parties are moving to either extreme.
We’re all shaken by this reminder of our broken politics and how urgently we need to find a way forward. Our problems have deep and complex roots that go far beyond electoral rules. But making our representative democracy work demands changing the incentives of how to get elected and stay in office.
Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is a simple reform that allows voters to rank several candidates in order of preference rather than just selecting their top choice. RCV rewards candidates who campaign with a unifying message, and penalizes divisive politics. It has numerous other benefits as well, including saving taxpayer dollars at the local level.
RCV provides the following effect on our elections.
A) Empowers Voters with more choices
B) Increases Voter participation
C) Promotes Unity (reduces polarization)
D) Forster’s Civility
E) Eliminates Spoiler effect
F) Majority support for winner
G) Saves taxpayer money by eliminating the run off elections.
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