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Ranked choice elections bill fails to leave committee

An illustration of a ranked choice ballot for a hypothetical election.

After two separate days of committee testimony last week, Wyoming's House Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions committee killed a ranked choice voting bill.

The bill would have let municipalities run their own "ranked choice" elections for nonpartisan local races — like city council and mayoral races. In a ranked choice election, voters rank their top choices for a given seat. If their number one choice doesn't win, their vote can count for their second choice candidate.

But opponents like Secretary of State Chuck Gray said ranked choice elections are confusing.

"As written, House Bill 49 opens the door to a convoluted, confusing and needlessly expensive voting process which is antithetical to Wyoming's uniform procedures for elections while posing immediate logistical and fiscal complications," Gray said.

But representatives from nonprofit think tanks, states where ranked choice has been tried and even the Wyoming AARP said confusion has not been a major issue in localities that have tried ranked choice voting.

Gray also said establishing local ranked choice elections would be expensive because it would involve running the ranked choice nonpartisan municipal election alongside, but on a separate ballot from, the other partisan or federal races. But that expense wouldn't be paid by the state. The additional equipment and other expenses involved in running a ranked choice election would have been paid by the communities who decided to use ranked choice.

Supporters of ranked choice said it saves voters from having to choose between the lesser of two evils.

"Ranked choice has been shown to increase civility in campaigns, create more issue-based debate and give voters greater opportunity to express their preference for representation," said Jenn Lowe, director of Equality State Policy Center.

The bill had been endorsed by the Joint Corporations committee in October, but it died Friday, Jan. 20, on a 3-6 vote.

Jeff is a part-time reporter for Wyoming Public Media, as well as the owner and editor of the Laramie Reporter, a free online news source providing in-depth and investigative coverage of local events and trends.
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