In April of this year, the Lehi City Council voted to continue the Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) state pilot program and brought back a primary election after eliminating it in 2021.
When the City chose to continue the RCV pilot and bring back the primary election, City leaders were unaware that ballot tabulating would differ in the primary and general elections. They discovered this oversight recently, then tried to change the tabulating process but were unsuccessful.
“Our elections office reached out to the Utah County Clerk’s office after it came to the City’s attention that the tabulation process for the primary election is different than the process outlined for the general election, as outlined in State statute. This [process] was not what the City contemplated when it opted for a primary using ranked-choice voting. Because Lehi is the only ranked-choice voting city doing a primary this year, we are doing our due diligence to ensure that we correctly understand the process to educate our residents and run our elections accordingly,” said Teisha Wilson, Lehi City Recorder.
Utah state statute dictates that the primary election is tabulated by a “bottoms up” method of eliminating the bottom vote getter each round until six candidates remain, regardless of hitting the 50% threshold.
State RCV pilot program temporary code reads:
“…instead of determining whether a candidate receives more than 50% of the valid preference rankings for a particular ballot-counting phase, the election officer shall proceed to a subsequent ballot-counting stage and exclude the candidate who receives the fewest valid preference rankings in that phase until twice the number of seats to be filled in the race remain.”
Unlike the general election, this method tabulates votes as only one race and not six individual races.
For the primary election, voters may rank as many candidates as they like and don’t have to rank them all. Still, it’s important to remember that only six of the 15 candidates will advance to the general election. So, ranking as many as you like is important. Voters’ first-choice rank matters the most because if the first-choice candidate is in the top six, then the rest of the rankings won’t be used.
In the general election, however, each of the three City Council seats will be run as three separate elections, removing the winning candidate from each round, with a new tabulation for each subsequent race.
“Teisha Wilson reached out to me, and we discussed Lehi’s decision to use RCV for their primary election. They [Lehi City officials] were concerned about the bottom-up method of RCV dictated by the Utah Code, but it was too late to change from this method. We will be performing their RCV as dictated by the RCV Pilot Program,” said Utah County Clerk Aaron Davidson when reached for comment.
Lehi voters should note that candidates Taylor Frost and Rachel Barnes have withdrawn from the race, and votes for them will not count.