Efforts by a local legislator to allow “ranked-choice” (or “instant-runoff”) voting in local elections has died in a state Senate committee.
The measure, patroned by state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th), would have allowed localities to adopt ranked-choice voting for boards of supervisors and city councils, starting in 2020. It was killed on a 10-4 vote of the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections, with two Democrats joining eight Republicans in nixing the bill.
A similar, though not identical, measure patroned by Del. Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) was killed earlier in the session by a subcommittee of the House Committee on Privileges and Elections.
Ranked-choice voting is the type of election method already used by the Arlington County Democratic Committee in its caucuses, giving voters the ability to rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote on the first ballot, the lowest-vote-getting candidate is eliminated and his or her votes are reallocated as directed by the voters. The process is repeated as many times as needed until the top-finishing candidate achieves more than half the votes.
Proponents of the procedure say it makes it less likely a fringe candidate will secure victory in a crowded field, and encourages campaigns to be run in a positive manner, since candidates will be trying to become the second (or third, or fourth) choice of voters even if they are not the first.
Last year, Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th), introduced legislation that would have brought instant-runoff voting to Arlington County Board races. The measure made it out of a House of Delegates committee with some momentum, but in the waning days of the 2018 session was effectively killed in a procedural motion by Republicans.
The Arlington Electoral Board has been lukewarm to the idea.