RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond City Council members rejected a proposal to use ranked-choice voting for the next council elections in 2024 following a discussion Tuesday where members raised concerns over the system’s implementation and spoke about the city’s history of voter suppression.
The ranked-choice voting system has been implemented for elections across the country and in the commonwealth. Virginia Republicans turned to the method for the 2021 state Republican convention when the party nominated then-political newcomer Glenn Youngkin.
Voters list candidates on their ballots in order of preference for the ranked-choice voting method. If a candidate gets more than 50% of the first-place votes, they are declared the winner of the race.
If not, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and voters who had that person as their top pick will have their next choice counted during the next round. The process continues until a candidate receives a majority of the votes.
In July 2021, a law went into effect in Virginia giving local governments the authority to adopt proposals to use ranked-choice voting. Multiple Richmond council members shared the issues they had with the legislation put forward for discussion during the city’s Organizational Development Standing Committee’s meeting Tuesday.
“Voting in Richmond is not fair, not equitable,” Ellen Robertson, council vice president and 6th District representative, said.
While major cities, including New York City, have used ranked-choice voting and Virginia localities have the option now, Robertson spoke about Richmond’s past and echoed earlier concerns raised about voter disenfranchisement. “Richmond’s history is enough for us to not be used as a test model again,” she said.
Robertson and others on the council, including council member Michael Jones, called for the automatic restoration of voting rights for those who were once incarcerated, an effort that failed in the Virginia General Assembly earlier this year.
The proposal for ranked-choice voting, sponsored by three city council members, called for the procedure to be used when all nine of Richmond’s council districts are on the ballot during the 2024 elections.
Due to limitations in the state law giving localities the option to adopt ranked-choice voting, the proposal did not include candidates for mayor and the city’s school board, another major sticking point for council members Tuesday.
After a discussion over the proposal, the nine council members on the committee voted 6-3 to strike the legislation from the city council’s Sept. 12 meeting agenda.
The City Council on Tuesday did approve changes to relocate certain polling places in the city, including moving the central absentee voter election district from the second floor of the general registrar’s office to the first floor.