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Bonneville Republican Party chairman speaks out against Ranked Choice voting

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI)-  A new way of voting may be on its way to Idaho. The voting system is ranked choice voting (RCV).

The system is based on the idea voters can rank their candidates in order of preference. 

For example, if there are three candidates on a ballot running for a seat, voters would mark their first choice in the first column, their second choice in the second column, and their third choice in the third column. This same process would hold true if there were more than three candidates as well. 

In the event no one candidate doesn't have 50% of the vote, the candidate with the lowest percentage of votes gets eliminated and those voters' second choice gets more votes. This process continues until there is a winner.

However, in a meeting on November 15, Nicholas Contos the chairman of the Bonneville County Republican Party shared that the republican party is overwhelmingly against the voting system.

"It's a big concern to those within the Republican matters a great deal. Those people that we elect to serve us in an elected office impact our lives, especially in local elections and state elections and the process that we use to elect those people yields different results. The process that they're suggesting we change to, I am convinced, will lead to worse representation in our state and elected officials that are less well-known and less supported by the public," Contos said.

Contos shared how he believes that if RCV gets unprohibited and brought into the state, it will infringe on the public's right of association.

"The proposal is both ranked choice voting and an attack on the party primary system. It takes away people's right to associate, form political parties, and select the candidates they wish to nominate within those parties. It's a government infringement on private organizations," said Contos.

Many supporters of RCV say the system can give voters more power as they have more choices available. Supporters also say that it also leads to less negative campaigning.

Nick Contos says while there are pros and cons to everything, in his opinion the cons of RCV far outweigh any pros the voting system may bring.

"Ranked Choice Voting would change the dynamics of campaigning, but it changes it for the worse in many ways. It encourages candidates to be quiet about their positions, not to be leaders, and not to take a stand," Contos said.

He says an example of this can be found in what we see in Alaska.

"Someone who's well known and a firebrand like Sarah Palin, she is really hurt by a ranked-choice voting system. And so it encourages candidates to do the opposite, to not be leaders, and instead to be quiet followers. Part of the existing government establishment and part of the machine do not rock the boat to not make changes," Contos said.

In a legislative session in 2023, Idaho lawmakers put it into law that RCV was to be prohibited in the state of Idaho. However, the Reclaim Idaho organization is trying to find a way to not only have open primaries in the state of Idaho but also allow for ranked-choice voting to be a part of Idaho Voting.

Contos believes that if the initiative is allowed to go through, it will yield a very bad result for the state of Idaho. He explained that he believes there is a better way to get better candidates running for office in the state.

"The correct way to get good candidates is to engage, to be involved, and to reach out to those people in our communities and to make a difference," Contos said.

Ranked choice voting is already used for major elections in Maine and Alaska. It is also used in Utah within some city elections. It was also used in the 2020 Wyoming Democratic primary. If you are interested in learning more about the system you can find our previous coverage on it here.

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Braydon Wilson

Braydon is a reporter for Local News 8 and Eyewitness News 3.


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