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Sandy Journal

Majority don’t want ranked choice voting again, says city survey

May 02, 2022 08:07PM ● By Travis Barton

By Travis Barton | [email protected]

After a unique election cycle in 2021 where Sandy City participated in a pilot project for ranked choice voting, city officials conducted surveys to determine how residents felt about the voting process.

The survey report, presented to the City Council in April, showed answers to questions such as if the process was easy or hard, whether they liked or disliked it, and if the city should use RCV in the future, among others.

“This is an important exercise to connect with our residents,” Mayor Monica Zoltanski said prior to the presentation, noting the value of having surveys like this to gauge the “sentiment of our community.” 

Just over 2,500 residents participated in the survey either through the city’s Citizen Connect Panel or an anonymous link distributed through postcards, social media, the website, email and text. Over 1,800 participated through the anonymous link.

Zoltanski said it was the second-highest response rate they’ve had (first was about the canyon transportation).

Of the responses to whether they found the process was easy or hard, 63% said it was very or somewhat easy through the anonymous link and 74% said the same thing through the connect panel.

For whether they liked or disliked using RCV, 54% responded disliking it a great deal with 28% liking it a great deal on the anonymous link. While on the connect panel, 30% disliked it a great deal while 33% liked it a great deal.

As for whether it should be used in the future, the anonymous link showed a wider disparity with 64% saying no. The connect panel however, was almost split at 51-49 in favor.

Other questions were follow-ups to how someone may have answered a question. Responses for why residents found the voting difficult included confusion, too many candidates, or uncomfortable with how many votes they were essentially casting. Some residents responded they only voted for one candidate because they didn’t want to use RCV in the first place, were told to only cast one vote or felt their other choices could dilute their first choice’s chance.

Regardless of votes, most every respondent felt there were too many candidates for RCV (there were eight candidates for mayor last year).

The survey was done through Qualtrics, with the two initial questions asking if they are a Sandy resident and for their address to ensure only locals participated.

Councilwoman Cyndi Sharkey was concerned about the amount who responded saying they didn’t like RCV because it removed party affiliation. She noted the recorders office fielded that question multiple times in the runup to the election.

“That was very worrisome to me,” she said.

Councilman Ryan Mecham said he appreciated the methodology noting the surveys are a “valuable tool” they have. But he did note those who respond tend to have strong opinions on the matter, so they don’t always capture how those in the middle of the spectrum feel.

“There is a segment we’re missing throughout this,” he said.

Zoltanski agreed that is a challenge, and pointed out they should welcome any chance for feedback. “I want to reach people where they consume their communications…I want to hear it all.”

The report was simply informational for the council, without set discussion on its future in the city. Councilwoman Marci Houseman explained the council’s vote last year was only to participate in the pilot program and would require another vote to administer RCV again.

“That vote did not perpetually implement ranked choice voting,” she said.

Zoltanski, who remains opposed to RCV, said she was surprised by the results of the survey expecting “stronger opposition.”

“I would not proceed with it in another election if I had to vote again,” she said. Zoltanski voted against using it last year, not wanting to use an experimental during an important mayoral election.

She did admit the survey was “enlightening” that she maybe didn’t give enough weight to those who approve of the method.

One resident, Patricia Jones, spoke during the meeting vehemently opposed to RCV, citing both the lack of a by-hand recount possibility and the majority of residents being opposed.

“We beg this council to not follow that route,” she said.