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The fastest growing democratic reform comes to Virginia

Liz White heads UpVoteVirginia, a non-profit that's promoting ranked choice voting here.
Liz White heads UpVoteVirginia, a non-profit that's promoting ranked choice voting here.

When there are more than two candidates to choose from, our current electoral system allows you to pick just one, but another system in use around the world lets citizens rank their preferences according to Liz White with a non-profit called UpVoteVirginia.

“Ranked choice voting is the fastest growing democracy reform in the country," says Liz White, director of a non-profit called UpVoteVirginia. "You get to say this is my favorite, but this is my second favorite, this is my third favorite and so on. If your favorite isn’t everybody else’s favorite, and they get the fewest votes, they’re eliminated in the next round, but your vote gets to go to your next choice, so you’re still in the conversation.”

That means politicians will be campaigning beyond their base – trying to appeal to a broader cross section of voters.

“They have to talk to people who don’t live near them, who don’t look like them, who don’t traditionally agree with them on everything," White explains. "It ends up with more representative candidates getting elected. It ends up being a more civil discussion during the campaign, because if you want to be somebody’s second choice, you don’t want to alienate your opponent’s voters by saying, ‘Well that guy is such a jerk!’ Because then they’re going to go, ‘Hey, she called my guy a jerk. She’s not going to get any of my votes.’”

White will explain and demonstrate at a series of talks around the state.

“We’re going to be doing an interactive example using cookies. You get to rank your favorite cookies.”

She claims ranked-choice voting has bi-partisan support in Virginia. The first community to use it was the blue city of Arlington, but it’s also embraced by Republicans.

“The governor, the lieutenant governor and the attorney general were all nominated using ranked-choice voting.”

And it was used to nominate four Republican candidates for Congress. Virginia allows its use in cities and counties, but lawmakers could expand ranked-choice voting to state and national elections when the General Assembly meets next year.

White will speak June 5 at Charlottesville's northside library and on June 6 at the main library downtown beginning at 7 p.m. She'll be in Crozet at The Lodge in Old Trail on May 18th at 5:30. Admission to all events is free.

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief