RCV In Action: Virginia’s GOP Uses Ranked Choice Voting to Choose Nominees

By Karen Stout on May 19, 2021

 

The Virginia GOP opted for a new form of voting to choose their party nominees for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. In an “unassembled” party convention, more than 30,000 party delegates used ranked choice voting to simulate in-person convention voting processes and elect consensus nominees. 

 

The use of ranked choice voting ensured the winning candidate had a majority support (50% +1) from party delegates. Roughly 53,000 delegates were registered to participate and voted at 39 sites across the state, and about 30,000 of those delegates voted on May 8th. This exceeds the number of delegates from the 2013 convention, which only had about 8,000 delegates, but still fell short of the over 365,000 delegates who voted in the 2017 primary. Delegate votes were weighted to reflect past Republican turnout in each county, with one delegate per 250 Republican voters in each county. John March, spokesman for the party, explained how the process has streamlined the events of traditional conventions. 

“Traditional conventions always  go multi round until someone gets to 50%. Since COVID did not allow us to have a traditional convention, we resorted to using ranked choice so  that we would not have to do an all day convention seven times just to get a nominee.”

 

Once all the votes were counted, the candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general were selected. The attorney general race was close, with Del. Jason Miyares and Chuck Smith (former US Navy JAG commander) as the frontrunners. Miyares started off with a small lead, and outraised all three of his opponents and receiving endorsements from two former VA governors (Robert McDonnell and George Allen), and Sen. Marco Rubio (Fl.), and secured the nomination with 51.7% of the vote. The lieutenant governor’s race was also contentious, but Winsome Sears won the nomination, defeating Tim Hugo in the fifth round with 54% of the vote. In the governor’s race Glenn Youngkin took the lead early, receiving 32% of first choice votes, and was nominated in the sixth round with 55% of the vote. 

 

Most delegates took advantage of the new process to rank all the candidates. While there was some resistance from candidate Amanda Chase, who urged her supporters not to rank other candidates when she was eliminated in the 5th round, even 74% of her supporters had ranked at least one of the final two candidates remaining. 

 

Along with nominating candidates with a majority of delegate support, the Virginia Republican Party has one of the more diverse slate of candidates for statewide office in their recent history. Overall, this race paints a promising future for the use of ranked choice voting in Virginia and primaries nationwide.

 

Karen is a spring outreach and advocacy intern for RepresentWomen. She is a graduating senior at UC Santa Cruz pursuing a degree in Legal Studies with an interest in law and politics.