Dear Delegate,

Thank you for your service in the party!

It’s time to uphold majority rule in Utah. The debate over how best to fill Jason Chaffetz’s seat (if he resigns) is just the latest example of why it’s time to act. Fortunately, there’s a straightforward change we can support. Last March, the Utah House gave their overwhelming approval to HB 349, a Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) bill (https://le.utah.gov/~2017/bills/static/HB0349.html) on a 59-12-4 vote. It then went to a senate committee, but did not advance on a 3-3 tie vote. HB 349 would have:

  • Solved the “plurality problem” (where a winner does not get a majority of the votes cast).
  • Empowered voters to express support for candidates in the order of his/her preference.
  • Ensured that every vote counts—that no vote is wasted on a weak candidate.

Those supporting HB 349 included Speaker Greg Hughes, Marc Roberts, Brad Daw, Mike Winder, and Rebecca Chavez-Houck (bill sponsor) in the House, and Don Ipson and Lyle Hillyard (bill sponsor) in the Senate. The Utah Republican Party (URP) Central Committee met in February, voted to oppose a bill proposing a two-round runoff system, and urged the legislature to consider backing HB 349.

The URP often uses ranked-choice voting (also known as preferential voting in Robert’s Rules of Order, which approvingly details RCV). Following Rob Bishop’s lead, in the 2002 convention involving nearly 1200 voters and 12 candidates for the 2nd Congressional District (2002 CD 2 Election), RCV was used to narrow the field to Tim Bridgewater and John Swallow. (Seats Lost by Plurality illustrates how plurality elections helped Democrats take control of the Senate.)

The URP used RCV in 2004, where 3500 delegates voted among eight gubernatorial candidates—on a single ballot. Every vote counted! If your first choice was eliminated, then your second choice got your vote; etc. The convention was pleasantly brief as it advanced John Huntsman and Nolan Karras to the Primary. For years, Davis County and Utah County have used RCV to select delegates; several Utah state representatives have been selected by county parties using RCV; and just this month Canada’s Conservative Party will use RCV to pick its (likely) prime minister candidate.

As a delegate to this year’s state convention, YOU can play a pivotal role in helping ranked-choice voting become a reality. That is why we have provided a copy of a resolution that gives examples of races where Republicans were adversely affected by minor parties, and a copy of a party constitution change proposal that would require the URP to employ RCV at conventions.

A mailer was sent (at considerable expense to RCV supporters) to every state delegate on the list found at the state party website, http://utah.gop/, as of Monday, May 15. Yes, YOU are that important! And we would like the convention to consider this resolution on Saturday.

But we have a problem. Supporters submitted this resolution to the URP on Thursday, April 20, by the five o’clock deadline (30 days before the convention). They later learned that the state party had declared via website that the submission deadline was Wednesday, April 19. Historically, convention submissions to party headquarters have fallen on Thursday. They asked why the deadline was one day earlier than usual this year, and were referred to Bylaw 6.0 (C) Computation of Time:

In computing any period of time prescribed or allowed by the Constitution of the Utah Republican Party or these Bylaws, the day of the act or event from which the designated period of time begins to run shall not be included. The last day of the period so computed shall be included, unless it is a Saturday, a Sunday, or a legal holiday, in which event the period runs until the end of the next day which is not one of the aforementioned days. When the period of time prescribed or allowed is less than eight (8) days, intermediate Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays shall be excluded in the computation.

Resolution supporters read the rule as a prospective computation of time, or a computation where you set a deadline in the future from (or that follows) a particular act or event. They did not read it as a retrospective computation of time, or a computation where you set a deadline that antedates (or that precedes) some particular act or event. But even if it was a retrospective computation, you would just count backwards 30 days from the Saturday convention, and still arrive at Thursday, April 20.

Realizing that you might be reluctant to accept our word on this, resolution supporters sought the opinion of Dr. Leonard M. Young, a Professional Registered Parliamentarian of 34 years. He conceives of two possible deadlines: Thursday (using days), and Wednesday (using 24-hour periods). Then, because of the ambiguity, he relies on “established custom” and “precedent” to interpret the rule. He also warns that, absent a change in the rules, the party may not render a different interpretation of the rule unless the “custom/precedent is directly overturned by a majority vote of the assembly itself.” Therefore, the deadline should have been Thursday, April 20, at 5:00 p.m.

Dr. Young also suggests a remedy whereby the Thursday submissions may be considered by the convention—namely, to add them to the agenda when the proposed agenda is considered for approval.

If you agree that RCV is an issue worth considering at convention, please consider the following:

  • Support a motion to add the resolution (yellow insert) and the rule change proposal (orange insert) to the proposed agenda.
  • If the chair rules the motion out of order, then vote to overrule the decision of the chair when his decision is appealed to the body.

With your support, Utah’s state legislature could be the first to adopt ranked-choice voting (Maine citizens adopted RCV last year by initiative).

We could empower our fellow citizens to actually vote their consciences! No more voting for the “lesser of two evils.”

No more spoiled elections. No additional expense for runoff elections.

Respectfully,

Nancy Lord, Former National Committeewoman, 2004 – 2008

Lowell Nelson, Former URP Vice Chair, 2011 – 2013

Drew Chamberlain, Former URP Secretary, 2011 – 2013

PS: Please help us add the "Ranked-Choice Voting" Resolution to the convention agenda.