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Letter: Rejecting Ranked Choice bad for Richmond

This letter to the editor was originally published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The Richmond City Council recently made the short-sighted decision to reject a proposal to adopt Ranked Choice Voting for the upcoming council elections in 2024. The co-signers of this letter know that adopting a new voting system would not be an easy task, but we are still disappointed in the council’s decision for two overarching reasons.

Our first reason is practical. We sincerely believe that Ranked Choice Voting is a straightforward and effective way to improve the way voters cast their ballots. In localities across America, polling has indicated that voters find the process easy to understand, and voter participation has increased as a result. We have no doubts that the same could happen in Richmond if the council ever decides to revisit the issue.

Our second reason is semantic. Throughout deliberation about the RCV paper, we were dismayed by a number of misleading and inaccurate statements made by those opposing the legislation. 

Some cited our city’s unquestionably difficult history of voter disenfranchisement. And while none of us would ever dispute that fact, we reject the notion that Ranked Choice Voting would do anything to dilute the strength of Black voters. If anything, the opposite is true.

In New York City’s recent elections, the RCV ballots led to voters choosing the most diverse council ever, and the second Black mayor in the city’s history. In Virginia, the bill to allow cities to adopt RCV was supported by local members of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus – including Delegates Lamont Bagby, Jeff Bourne, and Dolores McQuinn.

Rhetoric matters, whether from elected officials or community activists. And if the City of Richmond wants to have a good faith discussion about how to engage more voters in the democratic process, our organizations remain ready to have that conversation.

Jane Newell, League of Women Voters Richmond Metro Area.

Liz White, UpVote Virginia.

Jonathan Davis, Richmond Crusade for Voters.

Elizabeth Melson, FairVote Virginia.