Letter: While ranked-choice stalls out, approval voting gains steam

Originally published in The Salt Lake Tribune | Public Forum | Oct. 26, 2021

You may have seen that the recent ballot initiative which would have implemented ranked-choice voting statewide was withdrawn due to a lack of on-the-ground organization. As disappointing as this may seem to supporters of reforming our election process, there is still hope. A grassroots group in the state called Utah Approves is building support behind another voting method called approval voting. Approval voting simply allows voters to vote for all of the candidates they support, rather than just one. It only requires one simple change to instructions on the ballot; from “choose one” to “choose one or more.”

Approval voting, which shares many benefits with RCV, has been implemented with great success in two other places in the United States: Fargo, ND, and St. Louis, MO. Here in Utah, all 29 county clerks have come out in support of using approval voting. Curtis Koch, Davis County Clerk, is quoted in a recent legislative committee meeting saying that all 29 clerks would “support the implementation of approval voting” for Utah elections, which is not the case with ranked-choice voting. Among their various reasons for supporting approval voting, the most noteworthy are that it is cheaper, simpler, and easier to implement than other alternatives and it is the most auditable and therefore most secure of all alternative voting methods.

The Legislature will soon decide whether or not to add approval voting to the pilot project which currently only includes one alternative, ranked-choice voting. The message is simple, let’s give Utah a chance to try the best options before choosing just one. As we’ve seen, there’s insufficient local energy around ranked-choice voting in Utah. Meanwhile, a better, simpler method, approval voting, has seen a groundswell of support among state legislators, election officials, and regular citizens who just want a voting method that’s safe, transparent, and fair.

If you think Utahns deserve more representative elections, let your legislators know that you support adding approval voting to the Municipal Alternative Voting Pilot Program.

Nate Allen, Clinton

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