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Inside NOVA: Legislation on instant-runoff voting awaits Senate committee Print

BY: Inside NOVA

Created: January 21, 2019

A bill from a local legislator aimed at providing “instant-runoff” voting for local elected offices across Virginia awaits a hearing in a state Senate committee.

State Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-30th District, is patroning legislation that would permit localities to move to instant-runoff (or “ranked-choice”) voting for boards of supervisors and city councils, starting next year.

It’s 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 received 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.

Ebbin’s bill – SB1731 – currently sits in the Senate Committee on Privileges and Elections. It would requires localities that opt for the new voting procedure to reimburse the Virginia Department of Elections for the costs involved.

Last year, Del. Patrick Hope, D-47th District, 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.