A few years ago, Charlottesville Democrats were the first in Virginia to have a caucus and vote under an IRV system. IRV stands for Instant Runoff Voting, and in the political science community it is widely considered the best standard for voting, as it does not require a 2nd election runoff while also ensuring that the winner has majority support in a crowded field. This weekend Arlington became the second locality to flip to this system.
In the county board caucus Alan Howze won 1,851 votes (51.6%), Cord Thomas won 1,072 (29.9%) and Peter Fallon got 662 votes (18.5%). Because Howze broke 50%, no runoff round was needed- but the results were published in full. Had there needed to be a runoff, Fallon's 662 voters went 467 (76.1%) to 147 (23.9%) for Howze over Thomas with 48 declining to state a second option. That means in the full electorate, Howze defeated Thomas by an even more convincing 2,318 (65.5%) to 1,219 (34.5%).
Because the results were published you can also see hypothetical matchups. The Thomas voters cast their second choice ballots narrowly for Fallon over Howze by a 434 (50.7%) to 422 (49.3%) margin, but with his big first ballot win Howze was the choice of the full electorate over Fallon by another convincing 2,273 (67.7%) to 1,084 (32.3%) margin.
The most interesting split came if you looked at a hypothetical run between Cord Thomas and Peter Fallon. As their second choice, Howze voters went for Fallon in a landslide- with 1,257 picking Fallon (76.7%) and 381 selecting Thomas (23.3%). Overall even with Thomas getting more first choice ballots over Fallon, that gave Peter Fallon a 1,919 (56.9%) to 1,453 (43.1%) win over Cord Thomas.
Looking at it another way- the candidate listed last by voters has no chance of ever getting their vote in this runoff system. With three candidates, that was the candidate listed #3 in this race. Who got the most last choice votes?
Cord Thomas 1,724 last place votes (55.5%)
Peter Fallon 803 last place votes (25.8%)
Alan Howze 581 last place votes (18.7%)
In this election- the first place vote getter was also the candidate who the fewest voters chose as their last choice- meaning that in the Democratic caucus electorate, Howze goes into the special election with very strong support.
The IRV voting system worked well, and hopefully this will continue to expand statewide.