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Wyoming Dems to Debut Ranked-Choice Voting

Wyoming is joining Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas and Nevada in using a process called ranked-choice voting to determine delegates in the upcoming Democratic presidential primary. (Erik Hersman/Flickr)
Wyoming is joining Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas and Nevada in using a process called ranked-choice voting to determine delegates in the upcoming Democratic presidential primary. (Erik Hersman/Flickr)
March 19, 2020

LARAMIE, Wyo. -- The Wyoming Democratic Party has canceled in-person caucuses because of the COVID-19 crisis, but voters still can cast ballots by mail and at drop boxes.

And for the first time, voters will be able to rank their choice of candidates.

Chris Merrill, executive director of the nonpartisan Equality State Policy Center, says one benefit of what's called ranked-choice voting could be fewer negative ads, because candidates need to reach beyond their hard-core base to convince voters to make them their second or third choice.

"It would cut down on the kind of attack approach, and it would force candidates to focus more on issues and to be more civil in general," he explains.

Voters can choose up to five candidates in order of their preference, under the new system, and votes for candidates that don't get at least 15% would automatically go to the next one on a voter's list.

All mail ballots must be postmarked by this Friday, and in-person ballot pickup and drop-off locations will be available on March 28 and April 4.

Merrill says ranked-choice voting also should eliminate the need to "hold your nose" when casting a ballot, which happens when voters fear that their vote won't count if they vote for their favorite candidate not doing well in the polls.

Merrill says the new system also should help bring more diverse candidates onto ballots.

"There's good evidence that, in a ranked-choice voting system, women and people of color do better than in the traditional one-vote system, where you don't get to thoroughly express your preferences by ranking," he states.

Wyoming joins Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas and Nevada to use ranked-choice voting in the presidential primary, and according to the news digest WyoFile, the system also has been used to elect city councils and mayors in Colorado, Utah and six other states.

The Wyoming Republican Party has not yet announced its process for choosing its presidential convention delegates.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY