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January 30, 2020

Ranked choice voting could change our politics

By Elizabeth Melson

In 2020, our commonwealth has a chance to improve elections with a simple update: ranked choice voting. It’s literally as easy as 1, 2, 2. Bills HB

House Bill 1103 and HB 506 in the Virginia General Assembly propose to let localities voluntarily give ranked-choice voting a try for city council and county board of supervisor elections. 

Ranked choice voting is used in elections where there are three or more candidates. Voters start with who they truly like best, without worrying about “wasting” their vote on a “spoiler” candidate, if they don’t prefer a front-runner. Ranked choice requires a true majority winner, and so prevents a skewed result, as often can happen in plurality elections. The method can be used in single seat or multiple seat elections, partisan or non-partisan competitions, and does not advantage one party over another. 

If no candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and the votes received by the eliminated candidate count instantly towards the next choice on their voters’ ballots. The rounds of counting repeat until a candidate receives a majority of the vote. It’s like a run-off election or tournament that is decided on one ballot, in one election. For that reason, it is also known as instant run-off voting.

Ranking changes the conversation between voters and candidates and even between candidates competing with each other. With ranking, if a candidate meets a voter who favors an opponent, the conversation need not end; it can shift to second choices and areas of mutual concern. In places with ranked choice already implemented, candidates sometimes even campaign in groups of two or three and ask to be second or third choices. It could lead to more civilized and issue-based campaigns and less mud-slinging.

I hope Virginians will contact their state legislators to let localities voluntarily try out this simple, promising upgrade to local elections. To learn more about ranked choice voting, visit 

The writer is the president of FairVote Virginia.
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David78 · February 19, 2020 at 10:48 pm
Well, I want to say that I spend a long time on this site leaf blower 2020 and I get a lot of information a=form this site.
EMelson · February 19, 2020 at 8:54 am
It should say as easy as 1, 2, 3! Looks like a copy paste error occurred at publishing 😊
EMelson · February 19, 2020 at 8:49 am
I'd counter the comment below by saying that it is more likely to result in candidates that we can all live with, less likely to bring forward a fringe candidate with a small fraction of support. But thank you for providing a counter point. I like balanced discussion.
Virtus · January 31, 2020 at 7:06 pm
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