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Opinions are mixed after Heber City’s second election using ranked-choice voting

Official ballot drop boxes are one way for Wasatch County residents to vote.
Grace Doerfler / KPCW
Official ballot drop boxes are one way for Wasatch County residents to vote.

Heber City voters used ranked-choice ballots to select three city councilmembers this November. But there’s no consensus about whether the system is right for the city.

Heber City councilmembers voted unanimously to use ranked-choice voting for this year’s election – the second time the city has used the system.

Just fewer than 2,900 ballots were cast, about a third of Heber City’s registered voters.

Kelleen Potter, the executive director of Utah Ranked Choice Voting, said she thinks the system worked well on Election Day.

“I think it went great,” she said. “I think it worked exactly as it’s intended to.”

She said ranked-choice ballots give voters a chance to research the candidates and vote based on their priorities. Potter said she’d like to learn more about the error rate compared to conventional ballots among Heber voters.

But among residents, opinions about ranked-choice voting are mixed.

Jade Holmes, a Wasatch County voter who volunteered in Heber City on election night, praised the city and county for running the election with fairness and transparency. But she said she has qualms about the ranking system.

“They don’t let anything slide. The attention they give it blows me away,” she said of the election workers. “I think the things that didn’t go well were the ranked-choice voting.… It wasn’t the county’s side at all; it was just mistakes people were making.”

Candidate Christen Thompson ranked second in the race for each of the three city council seats, so he was not elected. While he said he’s disappointed, he still supports the ranked-choice system.

“I really like ranked choice, because it really gives people the chance to vote for what they believe in… without being afraid of losing their vote,” he said.

But if Heber City uses ranked ballots again, he said he hopes there will be more voter education before Election Day.

City recorder Trina Cooke said ballots were securely collected by the sheriff and election officials when polls closed. The public is welcome to watch the counting process during elections. She said she’s glad to answer questions about voting from the public.

“I really appreciate when people come to me and ask questions if they’re concerned about it,” she said. “It’s much more effective to ask questions of the people who are running the process.”

Voters won’t know until the next election whether Heber City will use ranked-choice ballots again. The city council will determine which process to use in the next election in 2025.

Election results are not official until the final canvass Dec. 5.