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Heber City plans another election with ranked choice voting

In 2024 the GOP presidential primary in Utah will be decided at neighborhood caucuses, rather than a traditional election on Super Tuesday.
Darylann Elmi
Adobe Stock
In 2024 the GOP presidential primary in Utah will be decided at neighborhood caucuses, rather than a traditional election on Super Tuesday.

After trying out a new voting method in 2021, the Heber City Council decided to keep the system in place for elections this year.

In 2021, Heber City opted to use ranked choice voting, and the council voted unanimously on Tuesday to do so again.

Traditionally, the city would hold a primary election and let voters choose three total candidates for three seats that are up for new terms. Instead, Heber voters will once again rank as many candidates as they wish to support in order of preference.

Councilwoman Rachel Kahler said she voted against ranked choice voting in 2021 but has since changed her mind.

“I do think ranked choice voting allows for a shorter election,” she said. “It allows for people to campaign when people are paying attention, instead of trying to campaign for a primary and then for the general, and for that reason, I'm in favor of it.”

Other council members said it works for small areas such as Heber City.

In a recent hearing at the State Capitol, Representative Katy Hall of Davis and Weber counties proposed to end the statewide ranked choice voting option, which began in 2018 under Governor Gary Herbert. That bill, H.B. 171, has been inactive since the House Government Operations Committee voted unanimously to put it on hold in early February.

Councilman Scott Phillips said he attended the hearing, and her arguments against the voting method didn’t convince him.

“The representative that brought it forward has never had experience with ranked choice voting personally,” he said. “She's just listening to a few of the people in her district — actually, I don't even think they were from her district, a neighboring district. I think ranked choice voting is perfect for the city-level government, city council, mayor. We're nonpartisan, we don't have parties. We don't want to have a primary — like, you know, people don't want us campaigning all year long for a seat in the November election, and ranked choice voting helps us to avoid that.”

Phillips was one of the council members elected in the 2021 election, along with Yvonne Barney.

Although she voted to use it again this year, Barney said some reported issues last time around concerned her.

“It was confusing,” Barney said. “There's a lot of individuals who will be moving into the valley who will have come from an area that does not have ranked choice voting, and so we're going to have to go through the whole thing of explaining it all to them once again.”

According to City Recorder Trina Cooke, city staff had to review about 400 ballots (out of 3,372) and file their votes by hand because voters did not fill them out correctly.

More on ranked choice voting and detailed voting results of the 2021 municipal election is available at heberut.gov.

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