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Delegate Sam Rasoul: It's Time for Ranked Choice Voting in Virginia

Do Virginia elections need a shot in the arm?

Winning a primary often guarantees winning an election. That’s because many districts are so heavily red or so heavily blue.

Delegate Sam Rasoul wants to change all that. He has a plan that would create ranked choice voting and open primaries, sending four of the top candidates to the November ballot regardless of which the candidates are from. He acknowledges party leaders on either side probably won’t like the idea. 

“Parties tend to not like any type of innovation as it pulls power away from the establishment," he says. "For me, this is about finding ways to depolarize our current political system.”

Rasoul calls it the Depolarizing Politics Act. But critics say it might lead to more polarization.

Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University says it would probably be a mixed bag.  

“So if you had a city or a county that was 50-50 split, ranked choice voting could really mix things up and make for some really healthy political competition," Kidd explains. "But in a county that’s really rural and really Republican, Democrats would almost be locked out. In a city that’s really Democratically-oriented, Republicans would almost be locked out.”

Four other states currently have open primaries, where candidates from both parties run in one primary and then the winners advance on to the general election. None of those states allow voters to rank their choices, indicating which candidates are a second choice or a third choice.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.
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