Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian candidate for governor in 2013 and U.S. Senate in 2014 is back with a message. No, it isn’t an announcement of his next campaign. Instead, it is a call for electoral reform here in Virginia.
Specifically, he is suggesting three changes:
First, “reduce the threshold for ballot-qualified party status to 2% of the vote in statewide elections.”
In Virginia, a political party needs to get 10% of the vote in a statewide election in order to achieve major party status. As a result, there are technically only two political parties in Virginia, the Republicans and Democrats. One major focus of the 2013 & 2014 Sarvis campaigns was to reach this threshold for the Libertarian Party. Although achieving a record percentage in 2013, the Sarvis campaign still fell short of this goal. A vast majority of states have a far lower threshold than Virginia.
Second, “reduce the ballot signature threshold to 5,000 for all statewide offices (Gov., Lt. Gov., Atty. Gen., U.S. Sen.).”
In statewide elections, Virginia requires primary candidates and non-major party candidates to collect 10,000 signatures to appear on the ballot. As a result of this relatively high requirement, Virginians only had two choices in the 2012 Republican presidential primaries, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, despite the fact that many more candidates were running.
Third, “enact ranked-choice (instant-runoff) voting in Virginia elections. No more claims of spoilers or wasted votes.”
Given some perceptions of Robert Sarvis, this idea will likely generate the most interest. While the first two suggestions would expand ballot access and political freedom in Virginia, the third would prevent candidates, like Sarvis, from supposedly “stealing elections” from either the Republicans or Democrats as was suggested in 2013 and 2014. After all, under this idea if no candidate achieved a majority of the vote on the first ballot, then the candidate or candidates with the lowest vote total would automatically be eliminated from the process and his or her votes would be split among the remaining candidates based upon the preference order of the individual voters. Thus, this change would elect a candidate that is presumably preferable to the majority. Unlike some states, like Louisiana which is holding its runoff election in a few days from now, with instant-runoff voting a new election would not needed, thus saving considerable tax dollars. In addition, it would give voters greater freedom to cast their first vote for the candidate they most prefer without the potential worry of “throwing a vote away” for a candidate that isn’t favored to win.
Although I’d like to see a few additional reforms, like requiring all candidates collect the same number of signatures in order to make the ballot regardless of party, I do think that the suggestions that Robert Sarvis suggests would certainly improve elections in Virginia. If you agree, please contact your delegate and/or state senator to urge them to support this kind of election legislation.