Poll: Virginians Want Political Reform

Unite Virginia
February 22, 2019

In a recent Unite America Institute poll, Virginians were clear: they want political reform.

Virginia, which has received F’s from the Center for American Progress for the openness and accessibility of its elections, is in a prime position to institute key electoral reforms this year. The survey of 403 likely voters found that 61% of Virginians don’t believe that Republicans and Democrats are working well together in Richmond. In other words, the door for reform is open.

Among the key reform issues found to be most important to Virginians: clean election financing, redistricting reform, and national popular vote. Respondents were also in favor of ballot order randomization and ranked choice voting.

Redistricting reform is an area in which Virginians have a chance to move the needle in 2019. The Unite America Institute report found that 65% of Virginians support redistricting reform, and with good reason; in 2014, a U.S. district court found that the congressional district maps had violated the Voting Rights Act by drawing boundaries on racial lines. Rather than prioritizing representation for citizens, the maps placed emphasis on reelection for incumbents.

Ahead of the 2020 census, legislators and Virginians alike seem to be in favor of shifting the process out of the hands of partisan interests. OneVirginia2021 along with bipartisan leadership in the house of delegates and state senate, have proposed new laws governing how the redistricting commission is formed, as well as what factors they may take into consideration when drawing maps in an effort to limit gerrymandering in the state.

The polling report also showed a clear desire to clean-up the campaign process, both on the ballot side, as well as the campaign and candidacy side. 75% of respondents indicated that they supported limited public funding for candidates who refused PAC and corporate contributions, while 52% said that they would support randomizing ballot order to give third parties a more fair shake.  

Another notable takeaway from the Institute’s study: the burgeoning support for alternative voting methods. Ranked choice voting specifically has been increasing in support around the country, with Maine adopting it statewide for the 2018 elections.  

With Ranked Choice Voting, voters rank candidates. If no candidate is able to get at least 50% of the vote, the candidate with the least votes will be dropped and their votes will be reallocated to voters’ second-ranked or third-ranked candidates, depending on whom remains in the race. This voting process allows the voter to have a say in the election’s outcome even her or his first choice does not get a majority of the initial votes.

48% of respondents were in favor of a switch to Ranked Choice Voting, with just 23% strongly opposed. The shift to ranked choice voting would allow more Virginian’s true intentions to be heard, while reducing voters’ fear of wasting votes cast for independent or third party candidates.

Unite Virginia is excited to support these reform efforts in 2019 and beyond.

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