Virginia should adopt ranked-choice ballots

This General Assembly session offers an excellent opportunity to repair and improve the democratic process. Two bills—HB2097 and SB1731—allow localities to hold elections using a type of instant-runoff ballot called ranked-choice ballots.

With these ballots, election results have the same benefits as runoff elections, but without requiring a second visit to the polls.



For example, in a three-way race where no candidate gets over 50 percent of the votes, the votes for the last-place candidate are re-allocated to the other candidates based on the second choices marked on his ballots. The one with over 50 percent wins.

Benefits:

  • The “spoiler effect” now inherent in three-or-more candidate races will never again torpedo candidates who best represent the majority.
  • More candidates will feel free to run because they know they cannot become “spoilers.”
  • Voters will feel free to vote for their favorites, even for long-shots, without fear that it will help their least-favorite candidate.
  • Citizens will get to hear a larger variety of viewpoints during campaigns.
  • Candidates could not win with the support of just a special-interest group, so will want to broaden their outreach.
  • Election results will more clearly reveal how the electorate stands on the issues.
  • No vote will be “wasted.” Every ballot counts.

Drawbacks:

  • Until ballot-scanning programs are updated, it may take a little longer to announce election results.
  • It’s a change, so it may be met with skepticism until voters get accustomed to it.

Please ask your legislators to support these bills, and end the unfair plurality-winner system which has hobbled our voting process for so long.

Rupert Farley

Spotsylvania

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