RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)- The Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) is hosting its nominating convention this weekend but voters shouldn’t expect to know the results right away.
During the 2020 Presidential Election, long wait times for final results fueled claims–without evidence–that the race was being stolen.
This time, conservatives are choosing which candidates for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general they want to compete in a high-stakes general election in a contest crafted exclusively by the Republican State Central Committee (SCC).
After months of infighting surrounding the selection of a convention, RPV Chair Rich Anderson said the state GOP has taken a number of steps to assure skeptical voters that they can trust the results.
On Saturday, May 8, voters who pre-registered as delegates will cast their ballots at 39 different drive-through convention locations across the state between 9AM and 4PM.
After polls close, Anderson said the ballots will be transported in sealed boxes with tamper-proof tape to the Marriott in downtown Richmond. He said representatives from the 17 campaigns have been invited to ride along during that process but it’s unclear how many will take advantage of the opportunity.
Anderson said the ballots will be stored overnight in the Marriott’s ballroom under constant video surveillance and guarded by security.
Anderson said the actual counting won’t start until 1PM on Sunday.
At that point, he said between 60-80 people will start tallying the votes. The count will be live streamed from beginning to end, with party leaders, campaign representatives and the press watching in-person.
“I expect we’re probably going to start with attorney general. Then, once that race is determined, we will move to lieutenant governor and then following that on to governor,” Anderson said. “We probably won’t have a determination of governor until maybe Tuesday, who knows maybe it goes into Wednesday. I just can’t, well none of us can predict that.”
Anderson said RPV booked the ballroom until Thursday, May 13.
While people can watch the count in real time, Anderson said there is no set protocol for posting numeric updates online throughout the process.
“Those are good suggestions and I’m more than happy to accommodate those because they are fully aligned with my desire for visibility in this whole thing,” Anderson said.
According to Anderson, part of the reason for the expected delay is the record number of registered delegates. RPV reported receiving nearly 54,000 applications.
Anderson said the choice to hand-count ballots is another factor. The decision was made after three gubernatorial candidates wrote a letter to the Republican SCC saying a computerized system couldn’t be trusted.
Anderson said the automated option being considered previously was expected to deliver results within one day, with paper ballots available if a recount was requested.
“If it affords the greatest visibility and confidence in the outcome I’m all for that,” Anderson said, standing by the party’s choice to bypass high-speed tabulation.
Further complicating the process is the choice to choose a candidate through weighted, ranked choice voting.
In each race, delegates will list candidates in order of preference. If no one reaches 50 percent support in the first round, subsequent choices will be considered until someone wins a majority.
The weighted system means that each delegate will not have an equal say in the outcome. Instead, a local unit’s voting power will depend on Republican turnout in past elections, according to Anderson.
The ballot-counting details were finalized this week after months of bitter division over the nominating process as a whole. Many remain frustrated that the GOP isn’t choosing nominees through a primary election and state Sen. Amanda Chase, a gubernatorial candidate, has even accused party insiders of trying to rig the convention.
“We have bent over backwards at the Republican Party of Virginia to make this a level playing field,” Anderson said. “Anyone who alleges it is a rigged or unfair process just simply hasn’t seen the very painful and deep arrangements that we’ve made to give everyone an equal crack at this.”