The Virginia Republican Party used ranked choice voting at their unassembled nominating convention on May 8, with 30,566 delegates voting at locations around the state.
Ranked choice voting allowed the VA Republican Party to preserve the round-by-round tabulation used in previous conventions, while not requiring delegates to vote repeatedly. The end result is strong strong consensus winners, an electorate eager to embrace ranked ballots, and transparency and legitimacy of the process even in an unassembled convention.
Lessons Learned for Other Party Nominations with RCV
The VA GOP's experience demonstrates that RCV is a strong solution for party conventions to advance broadly-supported nominees. Other Republican parties which used RCV in 2020 include the Indiana Republican Party and the Utah Republican Party.
Key lessons include:
- RCV increases party unity. RCV allows different factions of the party to come together behind a set of nominees without lingering animosity around potential vote-splitting.
- Voter education is crucial. The VA GOP's effective messaging and communication around this process led to very high rates of voters engaging with the ranked ballot and few ballots which became inactive by the final round.
- Hand counting is not necessary. While some constituencies within the VA GOP expressed distrust of tabulation software, other parties, cities, counties, and states in the U.S. tabulate ranked ballots quickly and efficiently using voting technology. Additionally, it is customary for RCV election administrators to release "cast vote records", or electronic records of each ballot, for independent analysis and verification, allowing and even greater degree of transparency than is typically present in non-RCV elections.
Below are the RCV results from Virginia's convention.
Glenn Youngkin won the nomination after six rounds.
- Youngkin experiences consistent growth in vote share. Youngkin took an early 7-point lead, and gradually expanded that lead throughout the rounds of tabulation as he earned 2nd-choice and 3rd-choice support from delegates who originally supported his opponents.
- Voters want to rank backup choices. This election represents a test of whether voters will take cues from their preferred candidate on whether to rank additional choices. Third-place finisher Amanda Chase encouraged supporters not to rank other candidates. However, when Chase was eliminated after the 5th round, 74% of Chase supporters had ranked at least one of the two finalists and had their ballots count towards the final round.
- Only 8.5% of delegates did not express a preference between the two finalists, a majority of whom were Amanda Chase supporters. Fully 99.9% of delegates cast a valid ballot.
Attorney General Race
Jason Miyares won the nomination for Attorney General after three rounds.
- Front-runner builds consensus in close contest for nomination. Jason Miyares began with a narrow lead in first-choice preferences, just two percentage points ahead of runner-up Chuck Smith. Miyares held onto his lead through 3 rounds, earning 40% of transfer delegates from supporters of Leslie Haley and 52% from Jack White after those candidates were eliminated. Smith preformed well among transfer delegates, but fell short of the amount needed to close the gap for first place. Jason Miyares won the nomination with 52% of the weighted delegate vote, demonstrating broad support.
- Almost all ballots ranked a finalist. 30% of delegates ranked a non-finalist as their first choice. However, 89% of those delegates also included a backup ranking for at least one of the two finalists, Miyares and Smith, so their votes counted for those finalists in the final round.
- Few inactive ballots. Over the course of 3 rounds, only about 3% of individual ballots became inactive. This indicates that voters are comfortable ranking many candidates, even though it may be their first time using RCV.
Lt. Governor Race
Winsome Sears won the nomination after 5 rounds.
- Sears holds on to a strong lead, even after opponent Tim Hugo earned 47% of Glenn Davis supporters' transfer votes compared to 29% for Sears. One reason? Sears increased her first round lead in rounds 2, 3 and 4.
Next Steps for Nominees
These Republican nominees will compete in the November general election against the Democratic nominees who were selected in a non-RCV statewide primary.