After being first in Virginia to use it, Arlington hits brakes on ranked-choice voting

The system allowed voters to rank candidates by preference - rather than having to choose just one.
Published: Jul. 19, 2023 at 9:21 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 19, 2023 at 10:53 AM EDT
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When Arlingtonians went to the polls last month to vote in a Democratic primary election for two open seats on the County Board, many were met with a question that had never been asked before during a government-run election in Virginia: “Are you familiar with ranked-choice voting?”

Arlington County’s closely watched foray into a new type of voting has drawn generally positive reviews, but the verdict from officials deciding whether the county should use it again has been mixed. On Saturday, the County Board opted not to implement ranked-choice voting in its general elections for board seats in November, pointing to confusion about the process and concerns about whether outreach efforts were translating to diverse support for the new system. However, several board members said they still want to pursue ranked-choice voting in future elections.

“While I know we’ve heard some people ask that we commit to it now and for every election thereafter, I don’t think that’s the proper thing to do at this point,” said Board Chair Christian Dorsey.

During the June 20 primary, many Arlington voters interviewed by the Virginia Mercury welcomed the new process.

Consuelo Bangs of Glen Carlyn said she found it “easy” to rank candidates based on whom she liked best as opposed to casting a ballot only for a clear favorite.

“Numbers don’t always reflect what’s in the mind of voters,” she said.

Andrea Hansen said she was familiar with how ranked choice voting works in other places like Alaska, which has embraced the voting method in higher-profile congressional elections, and thinks it’s a good system.


NBC12 is a partner with The Virginia Mercury, an independent, nonprofit online news...
NBC12 is a partner with The Virginia Mercury, an independent, nonprofit online news organization covering state government and policy.(Virginia Mercury)