Excellent news; as Liz White, Executive Director of UpVote Virginia, a nonpartisan democracy reform group, said:
“I can’t think of a better way to elevate voters here in Arlington than to move forward in support of Ranked Choice Voting – a simple change to the ballot that enables a better voter experience, better elections, and ultimately, better government…Today’s vote would make Arlington the first locality in Virginia to move forward on adopting RCV. It marks a crucial step toward the culmination of many years of advocacy by nonpartisan reform organizations and advocates of good government alike.”
What is Ranked Choice Voting? The Arlington County Board explains:
Ranked Choice Voting is an election method that allows voters the option to rank candidates in order of preference (first, second and third choice, etc.), though they are not required to do so.
RCV differs from plurality voting, Arlington’s current method, in which voters may only select one candidate. If a candidate receives more than half of the first choices, that candidate wins, just like in any other election. However, if there is no majority winner after counting the first choices, the race is decided by an instant runoff. The candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and voters who ranked that candidate as their first choice will have their votes count for their next choice. This process continues until a candidate emerges with more than half of the vote and is declared the winner.
The threshold for winning in RCV is adjusted based on the number of seats to fill. A similar process of eliminating and electing candidates through rounds of counting occurs until all the seats are filled.
In short, Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is very simple but effective and important, in that it “Gives voters more meaningful choices”; “Eliminates spoilers and strategic voting”; and may have other benefits as well. Currently, RCV is used in Maine (where it was adopted in part to prevent what happened in 2010, when extremist Paul LePage was elected governor with less than 40% of the vote, then reelected in 2014 with less than 50% of the vote), Alaska (where it helped lead to the election of Mary Peltola recently), and New York City. Here in Virginia, an RCV pilot program was adopted in 2020, providing the option that “elections for local governing bodies may be conducted by ranked choice voting.” So good for Arlington, which just took advantage of that option (allowing RCV in County Board primaries beginning in June 2023). Hopefully, every other jurisdiction in Virginia will do the same.
P.S. See video of the Arlington County Board discussion and vote, below the statement by UpVote Virginia.
Arlington County Board Unanimously Endorses the Adoption of Ranked Choice Voting
UpVote Virginia Executive Director Liz White calls the vote “historic” as Arlington becomes the first Virginia locality to move to adopt an RCV pilot program for primaries
ARLINGTON, VA – Today, UpVote Virginia, a newly-formed nonpartisan democracy reform collective, joined advocates for fair elections from across the Commonwealth to celebrate the unanimous endorsement of a Ranked Choice Voting pilot program by the Arlington County Board.
This morning’s vote is the result of HB506 (Hope), which passed the General Assembly in 2020, granting Arlington the authority to elect their County Board members through Ranked Choice Voting. Other Virginia localities have the opportunity to follow suit, thanks to HB1103 (Hudson), a bill that provides all cities and counties the option to use RCV to elect members of local governing bodies. The Arlington resolution adopts RCV in County Board primaries beginning in June 2023, and its chief patron was Board Chair Katie Cristol. With the unanimous passage of this resolution, the Board will advertise this recommendation to the public for one month before formally adopting the ordinance as part of the consent agenda at a hearing on December 17.
UpVote Executive Director Liz White testified at Saturday’s Board meeting, and was joined by several nonpartisan grassroots groups who have been working towards this moment since the passage of HB1103 by the General Assembly in 2020 – including FairVote Virginia, FairVote Action, the League of Women Voters, RepresentUs, Veterans for Political Innovation, and the Voters First Project.
In her public testimony, White said, “UpVote Virginia is dedicated to elevating the voices of Virginia voters through nonpartisan education, advocacy, and grassroots engagement. And I can’t think of a better way to elevate the voices of voters in Arlington than to move forward with this resolution in support of Ranked Choice Voting – a simple change to the ballot that enables a better voter experience, better campaigns, and ultimately, better government.
“We are grateful to the hundreds of Arlingtonians who have shared their thoughts about Ranked Choice Voting with the Board over the last two months, and I’m thrilled that this resolution is moving forward with the unanimous support of my colleagues,” said Cristol. “I look forward to working with our Electoral Board and Arlington Elections team to educate and engage voters and to ensure that Ranked Choice Voting in the June 2023 County Board primaries is a success. Ranked Choice Voting has been shown to make the electoral process more representative and participatory in communities across the county, as well as resulting in candidates who build consensus and a more diverse slate of elected officials. I’m glad that Arlington voters have a chance to utilize this program next year.”
Ranked Choice Voting is the fastest-growing nonpartisan electoral reform in America, and in Virginia, both parties have embraced this program in recent years. RCV has been used by the Arlington County Democratic Committee in their recent primary contests, and the Republican Party of Virginia used it at its statewide nominating convention in 2021, and in several congressional primaries earlier this year. Further, at UpVote Virginia’s launch event in August, both Governor George Allen (R) and Congressman Don Beyer (D) spoke about their shared support of Ranked Choice Voting.
White added, “In the last few years, Virginia has expanded access to absentee ballots, instituted automatic voter registration, and has established what experts agree are some of the fairest legislative maps in America. These aren’t issues that benefit one party over another – they benefit voters. Today’s vote builds on this momentum.
It’s not everyday you can say you were the first to do something in Virginia, but Arlington’s County Board truly did something historic today. Looking forward, UpVote Virginia hopes that Arlington’s example will set the stage for other localities across the Commonwealth to follow their lead.”
UpVote Virginia is a registered 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization dedicated to elevating the voices of Virginia voters through nonpartisan education, advocacy, and grassroots engagement. As a democracy reform collective, UpVote Virginia will focus on multiple issues related to making our elections stronger and more equitable, including its first flagship issue: Ranked Choice Voting. Learn more at UpVoteVA.org.