More Transparency Needed in Ranked Choice Vote Elections

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, December 19, 2023.

I support ranked choice voting (a/k/a RCV) as a necessary tool for gauging voter support for candidates and the policies they promote. It’s better than first past the post elections, which have produced a non-competitive political system at all levels of government.

RCV enables voters to rank candidates in order of preference and determines the winner by transferring losers’ ballots to other ranked candidates until someone gets the quorum needed to win. Thus no votes are wasted.

Yet the confusion surrounding the tabulation of the 2023 Democratic Primary for County Board was unfortunate. I must confess that I too was confused about about two aspects of the tabulation—the quorum needed to determine the winners and the fact that Cunningham’s ballots were exhausted after she was declared the first place winner—thus preventing ballots ranking her No. 1 and Roy No. 2 from being transferred to Roy after the first round.

Eventually a friend pointed me to the 2023 Democratic Primary election results posted on the State Board of Elections website. Not only does this report show the outcome of each round of the RCV tabulation, it also has a link with an easily understandable description of the process.

The County says it canceled its plans to conduct an RCV in the General Election because of confusion about the Primary results, but the County never posted a link to the state’s tabulation report, which might have cleared up the confusion.

Arlington County is not responsible for reporting results of elections conducted by the State Board of Elections. But a link to the state report on the County website is not too much to ask.