It’s been almost three years since ranked choice voting in Virginia was approved for City Council and Board of Supervisor elections, and yet not one city or county has adopted it. With much deserved applause,Arlington County recently voted in favor of RCV, but only as a pilot for county-run party primaries, and not for the general election. TheArlington pilot will also be limited to ranking only three candidates and not the full slate of candidates who may run. So why the limitations?

Virginia law requires that voting machines and electronic software be certified by the State Board of Elections. Also, when the law was passed in 2020 allowing RCV, it included a provision that all costs, including certification, would be paid by the cities and counties choosing to adopt RCV. On its face, this sounds reasonable. But note, cities and counties can’t conduct their own certification. Without certification, voting machine vendors can’t provide a price for their RCV product and upgrade. When asked how much certification costs, theState Board of Elections won’t provide an answer. And if a city and county is first to seek certification, then it pays the full cost of certification even though that certification is free to any other city or county who subsequently wishes to use that same vendor product. On top of that, it is only AFTER certification that the city or county can obtain a price for RCV conversion from a vendor who now is in the monopoly position of being the sole vendor certified to provide RCV.So, ask yourself, would you approve RCV for your city and county under these circumstances? The only reason why Arlington is going forward with their “rank only 3” RCV pilot is because their existing machines already have this feature, and no upgrades or certifications are required.

The way to resolve this dilemma is for the Virginia General Assembly to direct the State Board of Elections to certify RCV software for sale across the Commonwealth and include the cost of certification in the state budget for all Virginians. If certification is the job of the state, then the state should do its job.