May 7, 2021

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AP)- Being a voter’s second choice is usually a recipe for disaster for a political candidate, but in this year’s chaotic GOP gubernatorial race in Virginia, second-place status could be a winning ticket.

Seven candidates are vying for the Republican nomination at what the GOP is calling an “unassembled convention” this Saturday.

None of the four top-tier candidates – Pete Snyder, Amanda Chase, Kirk Cox and Glenn Youngkin – have established themselves as a clear front-runner. As a result, under the ranked-choice voting system the GOP is using, the winner will almost certainly need to be the second choice of numerous voters, and perhaps even the third choice, to secure the nomination.

Under the ranked-choice system – which has been adopted in Maine, Alaska, and a growing number of local elections around the country – voters rank the candidates in order of preference. If no candidate receives an outright majority, the last-place finisher is eliminated, and that candidate’s votes are reallocated to whomever those voters listed as their second preference.

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The process continues, reshuffling votes until one candidate obtains an outright majority. It’s designed to mimic the voting at a true convention, where delegates gather in a location, listen to speeches from the candidates, and hold multiple ballots until a winner gets a majority.

Last week, Cox put out an online ad explicitly asking delegates to name him as their No. 2.

“I understand I might not be everyone’s first choice,” Cox says in the ad. “But if I’m not your first choice, I’d really appreciate you putting me down as your second.”

In a phone interview, Cox said the rationale for such an overt plea is obvious.

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“It’s not hard to do the math,” he said. “There’s seven candidates. I don’t see anyone getting a majority on the first ballot.”

Cox also said that when he makes calls to the tens of thousands of Virginians who have registered as delegates, it’s clear that many aren’t even aware they will be casting a ranked-choice ballot.

If you’d like more information about the various candidates, visit here.


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