Draper Ranked-Choice Election to be administered by Salt Lake CountyJun 17, 2021 02:42PM ● By Mimi Darley Dutton
City Recorder Laura Oscarson was directed by Draper’s city council to conduct the city’s first Ranked Choice Voting municipal election in November, through the Salt Lake County Clerk’s office. (Courtesy Draper City)
By Mimi Darley Dutton | [email protected]
Draper will indeed have its first Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) municipal election in November, but after considering running the election through Utah County, city officials have chosen to once again contract with the Salt Lake County Clerk’s office.
Ranked Choice Voting is the informal name for the Municipal Alternate Voting Method. In the last legislative session, District 51 State Rep. Jeff Stenquist introduced H.B. 75, confirming that it’s the decision of a city council (not a city’s mayor) to pursue a pilot project for RCV. As a compromise in getting the bill through the senate, it was changed to state that any city could contract with any county in the state to run their election, that they didn’t have to contract with the county the city resides in.
“It’s going to be really interesting to see what cities contract outside their county to do it. Draper is in a unique position because it spans into Utah County, so they could have done that without the bill to participate,” Stenquist said.
Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen said, “Our former system didn’t allow us to offer Ranked Choice Voting. The new system does accommodate it. We feel confident as far as the equipment we’ve chosen, Dominion. They are Election Assistance Commission certified. Their software is certified for Ranked Choice Voting which is very important.”
Laura Oscarson, Draper City’s recorder, expressed confidence in Salt Lake County elections. “We’ve always used Salt Lake County Clerk’s office in the last many years, it really was just a matter of the council really wanted to do Ranked Choice Voting. If it wasn’t going to be an option through Salt Lake County, they wanted to give themselves the option of doing it through Utah County. Salt Lake County is a much better fit for us since they’re in Salt Lake County and so are we. And because we’ve used them in the past, and we’ve never had problems, we have a good relationship with them. I will tell you that Salt Lake County is less expensive than Utah County for us to run the RCV election,” Oscarson said.
Ranked Choice Voting is just as it sounds. All the candidates are listed on the ballot and each voter ranks them in order of their first to last choice. The person or persons with 50% or more of the votes are declared the winner(s). No primary is needed so it saves both the city and the candidates money. It’s also said to lead to more collegial campaigning because, if a candidate isn’t your first choice, they hope to be your second or so on.
“When you have a primary, it’s essentially running two elections. It’s expensive and a lot of work if you want to be a successful candidate. This (RCV) may encourage people who don’t think they have the money or the wherewithal to do it that they can participate. I think there are some good things that will come out of it and I hope the residents will like this pilot program,” Oscarson said.
Two at-large city council positions and the office of mayor will be on the November ballot. Swensen indicated there have to be more than double the number candidates file than there are seats available for Ranked Choice Voting to work. For example, in order for RCV to be applied there would have to be more than four candidates for the city council positions and more than two candidates for mayor. “If one contest should require RCV because of the number of candidates and the other doesn’t, they would both be included on the same ballot,” she said.
“I imagine most cities have more than enough candidates, at least that’s my experience in Draper. We have lots of people who want to be involved which is awesome,” Oscarson said.
Because RCV doesn’t require a primary, the declaration period for candidates will be Aug. 10-17 and ballots will be mailed out Oct. 12. As with all Utah elections, it will be vote by mail.
According to Oscarson, May 10 was the deadline for cities to decide if they wanted to try RCV for the November election. Because this is a statewide pilot project for RCV, Oscarson said the Lieutenant Governor’s office will meet with city recorders and do outreach and education so that voters will understand and be ready for the new election format.
“Talking to the recorder from Vineyard who did it already, she said people caught on really fast,” Oscarson said.
Oscarson and Linda Peterson, Draper’s communications director, said that both the state and the county’s websites will be good resources for voters to learn about the candidates and about this new style of voting. Peterson encouraged voters to check their registration status at the Utah State website. “For instance, if you’ve moved or such, that has to be squared away,” she said.