Arlington Co. pauses ranked choice voting ahead of November’s election

After becoming the first locality in Virginia to implement ranked choice voting, Arlington County’s board has decided not to use the voting system in the upcoming general election in November.

Following a change in Virginia law, the county introduced RCV in last month’s Democratic primary race for county board, allowing voters to select and rank up to three candidates in order of their preference.

But in Saturday’s board meeting, members decided to put the pilot program on pause.

“I know we’ve heard some people who have asked that we commit to it now and for every election thereafter,” remarked outgoing chair Christian Dorsey. “I don’t think that’s the proper thing to do at this point while we’re still gathering data, information and socializing this with the community.”

While he and other members praised county election officials for their work implementing the new voting system, there is concern that with two board seats up for grabs, the way votes are tabulated under the new system is confusing to voters.

“I know I don’t need to understand solar if I have solar panels, which I don’t … if I had an EV vehicle, which I don’t,” said Board Member Libby Garvey. “But I do want to know how my vote counts. That is really different. And, for that reason, I am very uncomfortable doing this for the two seats up in the fall.”

With RCV, the candidate with the least amount of votes is eliminated and their votes get reallocated to each voters’ second choice. The process is repeated until candidates have the votes needed to win.

Maureen Coffey and Susan Cunningham were both announced as the winners of June’s Democratic primary. They will both face Republican Juan Carlos Fierro and independent Audrey Clement in November.

The county initially said it was implementing RCV because it gives voters more choices and promotes civility in campaigns as candidates are incentivized to appeal to a broader audience.

As of now, more than two dozen states have implemented ranked choice voting in some capacity.

Shayna Estulin

Shayna Estulin joined WTOP in 2021 as an anchor/reporter covering breaking news in the D.C. region. She has loved radio since she was a child and is thrilled to now be part of Washington’s top radio news station.

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