Virginia’s 7th Congressional District Republican Convention on July 18 lasted nearly 10 hours in 97 degree heat as the party conducted three rounds of voting to choose its congressional nominee.
The convention was held in person. Delegates voted indoors but were asked to wait outside or in their cars between rounds due to the COVID-19 pandemic, subjecting them to long hours under the sun during a record-breaking heat wave. Commenters on the party’s Facebook page expressed concern that the heat could affect those with pre-existing health conditions.
The convention had far fewer attendees than the 4,000 who were expected; just 2,500 people showed up. Campaigns then struggled to ensure their delegates remained throughout the day, offering free fans and water to entice them to stay.
It was not immediately clear how many delegates left before the final round of voting. Three candidates previously issued a joint letter asking the party to use ranked choice voting (RCV) in the CD-7 GOP contest, arguing that it would select a strong nominee with backing from the whole party:
“[We] believe that it is within the Republican Party’s interest that the nominee be chosen by a majority vote of the delegates eligible to participate in the convention. That can only happen with ranked choice voting.”
RCV asks voters upfront who their subsequent choices would be if their favorite candidate is eliminated, so there is no need to ask delegates to hang around for multiple rounds of voting throughout a long, uncomfortable day. Several other Virginia Republican conventions successfully used RCV this year, asking delegates to fill out just one ranked choice ballot from their cars and handing it in to be counted.
It is clear that state and local parties seeking to save delegates time in future conventions should use RCV to choose their candidates, whether or not there is a heat wave.