Two bills that would allow Virginia municipalities to adopt ranked choice voting (RCV) in certain local elections passed the Virginia State Senate on Thursday, February 27. Governor Ralph Northam signed HB 1103 on April 10th and HB 506 on April 6th.
Introduced by long-time RCV advocate, FairVote Virginia cofounder, and current Virginia House of Delegates member Sally Hudson, HB 1103 would allow municipalities to institute a pilot program for RCV elections in town council and board of supervisors elections. It passed the House with bipartisan support before passing the Senate last week.
HB 506 stipulates that counties operating under the ‘county manager’ plan, like Arlington County, can also participate in the pilot program. It passed the Virginia House and Senate with comparable margins. In fact, Arlington County Democrats already use RCV in their party-run primaries.
These bills are the latest in a wave of ranked choice voting legislation which has swept up New York City and more than 20 other cities. Additionally, the Utah legislature passed a similar local options bill in 2017, which led to two cities, Payson and Vineyard, opting to use RCV in 2019. After great success in those municipalities, more towns are expected to follow in 2021.
According to Del. Hudson, the bill will be “a benefit to communities like mine in Charlottesville, which tends to have very low turnout primaries in the summer and then local elections in the fall that often have multiple candidates running for a handful of open seats.”
In practice, by allowing individual localities to adopt RCV, municipalities will now have more flexibility and choice in conducting their elections—benefitting voters across the state.
FairVote Virginia, Unite America and their allies across the state worked tirelessly to lay the groundwork for the passage of this bill. They will now seek to earn Gov. Northam’s signature and the expansion of RCV across the state.