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Draper Journal

Back to traditional election in 2023, not Ranked Choice Voting

May 08, 2023 09:27AM ● By Mimi Darley Dutton

Draper contracts with Salt Lake County to run the city’s elections. In 2021, the county purchased new touchscreen machines that are capable of running both traditional and RCV elections. Leslie Bruce used one of the new machines to vote at City Hall in November 2021. (File Photo Mimi Darley Dutton/City Journals)

May 1 was the deadline for cities to notify the Lieutenant Governor’s office if they want to run a Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) election this year, a decision that falls to the city council. City Recorder Laura Oscarson broached the subject with the council at their Jan. 17 study meeting. Mike Green, Cal Roberts and Marsha Vawdrey voiced opposition to RCV, and that majority of three of the five councilmembers means Draper will return to a traditional election. 

“We polled the public and the majority didn’t like it (RCV), so they (the council) were being responsive to what the citizens want,” said Mayor Troy Walker. 

In theory, RCV should cost less because it’s one election rather than a primary and a November general election. According to Oscarson, Draper’s first RCV cost $33,000. Salt Lake County contracted with Draper City to run that election and the city paid what the county had bid. But post-election, the Salt Lake County clerk’s office realized they’d undercharged the cities and municipalities who tried RCV, meaning that future RCV elections will likely cost more.

Retired Salt Lake County Clerk Sherrie Swensen was in charge of the 2021 elections. She indicated that while the county’s first time administering RCV elections was successful, it proved to be a learning curve when it came to cost. Swensen said some ballots were several pages long by the time they listed all the candidates, and multiple-page ballots could cost more in postage. RCV ballots required more paper and space for printed instructions for the new format, and a great deal of time was spent on layout of the ballots themselves. Cities that participated in RCV for the first time also spent time and money educating the public on the new format prior to the election.

Lannie Chapman, who previously served as Swensen’s Chief Deputy, was elected Salt Lake County Clerk last year. Chapman said RCV isn’t necessarily less expensive. “It depends. If a city opted to do a traditional election with a primary and a general, that would cost more than RCV. But if they don’t have enough candidates to require a primary, then that cost savings isn’t there.”

Chapman explained that a primary is only required if more candidates file than double the number of seats available. This year, Draper will elect three at-large city council positions (each for four-year terms), so a primary will only be needed if seven or more people declare candidacy. 

Countywide, Chapman said the election format for 2023 is going to be a mix of both traditional and RCV, something she considers positive. “So far, two cities have affirmatively said they’d like to do RCV again…Salt Lake City and Millcreek. We’re still waiting to hear formally from other cities. I think a lot of cities are contemplating what’s best for their towns and putting deep thought into whether or not RCV is best for their constituents,” she said.

Current councilmembers Fred Lowry and Roberts confirmed they plan to run for re-election. Vawdrey said she’s considering it but hasn’t made a final decision. Interested persons must file a Declaration of Candidacy with Oscarson June 1,2,5,6 or 7 during regular office hours at Draper City Hall, 1020 Pioneer Road. A primary (if necessary) is scheduled for Aug. 15 with the general election Nov. 7. λ