2017 Interim Session – Voter Participation Update

Government Operations Interim Committee

There were a range of topics in this month’s Government Operations Interim Committee meeting, but we honed in on one major topic: voter participation.

Rep. Patrice Arent presented on Presidential Primary Funding. During the legislative session, Arent and her co-sponsor, Sen. Curtis Bramble, passed a bill requiring the state to hold a presidential primary election every four years. This was a result of the presidential caucuses held in March, which were volunteer-run rather than state-funded. Arent quoted voter turnout at caucuses is 53% lower than voter turnout at primaries. Anyone who attended caucus night witnessed insanely long lines, which Arent reminded the committee restricted those who are disabled, senior citizens, and parents of young children.

The fact the bill passed with bipartisan support indicates the importance of primaries for our democracy. So why bring up a bill that passed the legislature? It did not receive the necessary amount of funding! Fortunately Arent is not willing to let it go and reminded the committee of its importance. Hopefully they will continue the discussion and find the appropriate funding before the next presidential election in 2020!

Rep. Rebecca Chavez-Houck followed Arent with a presentation on Ranked-Choice Voting. During the legislative session, her bill – which would provide a ranked-choice voting option in elections with two or more candidates running – passed through the House, thanks in large part to advocate Rep. Marc Roberts; unfortunately it died in a Senate committee.

Karen Brinson from the Ranked Choice Voting Resource Center outlined the history of the ranked-choice voting process to the committee, as well as informed them of the benefits of implementation. (See her presentation here.) Among the benefits were ensuring broad support of a candidate rather than a plurality (the result of only being allowed to vote for a single candidate). Additionally, she mentioned the alleviation of election costs by holding a single election, as well as ranked-choice voting complementing vote-by-mail effectively.

However, a Weber County Clerk voiced concerns for ranked-choice voting, claiming it would not solve the plurality issue, and would in fact complicate vote-by-mail and raise costs due to additional ballots.

Chavez-Houck encouraged the committee to consider a transition into ranked-choice voting rather than an outright rejection based on concerns similar to the county clerk’s. Rep. Brian King called to open a bill file, which would allow for further discussion of the matter.

 

Listen to the entire committee meeting for yourself here.

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