The Wyoming Democratic Party has made two changes to its presidential caucuses, including a new voting system allowing voters to rank up to five candidates rather than choosing just one. That system is being piloted in a handful of other states and cities.
In addition to a new option to vote by absentee ballot, voters who participate in the April 4 Democratic caucus will have the chance to rank their top five presidential picks. The change puts Wyoming in the company of Alaska, Nevada, Hawaii and Kansas, all of which are implementing ranked choice voting in their 2020 Democratic nominating contests. Maine first used the system in 2018 to choose winners in state and federal elections. A handful of municipalities also use it to pick local officials.
Teton County Democratic Party Chairwoman Marylee White said the state adopted the new system in part because leadership hopes “it engenders more satisfaction with your vote.”
“It makes you look at all of the candidates on the basis of ‘Who would be OK with me? If my preferential candidate doesn’t win, who would I also support?’ ” White said.
State Rep. Mike Yin, a Teton Democrat, will host a meeting from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Picnic to explain how the new process will work. Essentially, it works in stages.
The system will first look at voters’ first choice picks. If one or more candidates receive less than 15% of the first choice vote, the candidate with the lowest number of votes will be taken out of the running. People who chose the eliminated candidate as their front runner will have their second choice votes allocated among the remaining presidential hopefuls.
Then, the algorithm will run again.
If, in the subsequent tally, there are still candidates with less than 15% of the vote, the candidate with the lowest number of votes will be eliminated and voters’ next choice votes will be apportioned among the remaining candidates. The process will then repeat itself until all remaining candidates have more than 15% of the vote. Once that happens, Teton County’s delegates will be split up proportionally among the remaining candidates and sent to the state and, later, national nominating conventions.
“Another way to think about it is an instant runoff,” Yin said. “You’re choosing your best candidate. If that candidate [doesn’t] get enough of the votes, you get to choose again.”
White said the new system is intended to create a “satisfying outcome for all voters.”
“It’s a relief to me knowing that even my second rank vote will still have power in deciding who our nominee will be,” she said.
Both Yin and White said they were not concerned about the new system scaring away voters accustomed to voting one way.
“If you wanted to, you could still vote the same way you always do,” Yin said.
Wednesday will likely be the only informational meeting about ranked choice voting that Teton County Democrats will hold. Yin said he hopes voters will come by, learn about the process, and share their knowledge with friends and family. He added that local Democrats are otherwise “going to make themselves available to the public” to talk over the change.
“The more opportunity we have to talk about voting, the better,” White said.
The final deadline to register as a Democrat and receive a mail-in ballot is March 12. The deadline to register for in-person voting at the caucus is March 20.
Voters can register to vote or change their party affiliation from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Teton County Clerk’s office in the Teton County Administration Building.
Registered Democrats will have the option to vote in the 2020 Democratic primary in one of three ways: by mail (postmark deadline is March 20), at polling stations March 28, or at the April 4 Democratic caucus.