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After trying ranked-choice voting, Arlington is returning to the traditional system

A placard that says "Vote Here" stands next to a street. Summertime foliage is in the background.
Jahd Khalil
Radio IQ

Voters in one Virginia locality experimented with ranked-choice voting for the primary last month. Now, they are going back to a more traditional way of casting ballots in the fall.

The Democratic primary was a historic first for voters choosing candidates for the Arlington County Board, which had two open seats. But many voters raised objections about a "single transferable vote," essentially that they were able to cast only one vote even though there were two open seats in an election with six candidates. So, the Arlington County Board did a 180 over the weekend – returning to a traditional system for the general election.

Mark Rozell is dean of the Schar School at George Mason University.

"I think it puts the prospects of ranked-choice voting coming back to be very low at this point because the decision to cancel it after having done it in the primaries sends a pretty strong signal that they lack confidence in this procedure," Rozell says.

Supporters of ranked-choice voting say this is not the end. Here's Will Mantell at FairVote.

"You have the board chair, Christian Dorsey, saying, ‘Let's use ranked-choice voting again, even if it's not for the general,’" Mantell says. "And you have other board members saying, ‘Ranked-choice voting worked well in the primary.’ So, I think overall the future remains bright for ranked choice voting in Arlington."

When voters in Arlington go to the polls this fall, candidates who have the most votes in the first round will win — which was not the case last month. The general election for the two seats features two Democrats, one Republican and an Independent.

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.