A major change to the way Arlington County Board elections are conducted could be on the horizon.
For the second time, Del. Patrick Hope has introduced legislation that would allow – though not require – the County Board to change the voting method from the traditional winner-take-all format to an “instant-runoff” (also known as “ranked-choice”) alternative.
The process already is in play when the Arlington County Democratic Committee selects its nominees for local office through a caucus (though not in state-run primaries). Voters are able to rank candidates in order of preference; should no candidate receive 50 percent of the vote on the first ballot, the lowest scoring candidate would be eliminated, and his/her votes would be reallocated based on voter preferences.
The process would continue – in a “lather, rinse, repeat” format – until a candidate hits the 50-percent mark.
Hope (D-Arlington) patroned a similar measure in the 2018 General Assembly session. Like his 2020 measure, the bill would only be applicable to Arlington.
The measure made it out of a Republican-majority committee with some momentum, but was killed off by the GOP leadership (which never met an Arlington bill it didn’t want to smother just on principle) on a procedural motion.
Democrats now control both houses of the legislature, which could help the current bill’s chances. Although not necessarily; a 2019 measure on the same topic, patroned by state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria-Arlington) and applicable statewide, picked up Democratic opposition on the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections, where it died on a 10-4 vote.
Hope’s bill is permissive; it does not require the County Board to take action, but allows the board to do so. He said County Board members would have the option of holding a voter referendum on the matter prior to any final vote.
The bill is HB506.