The Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) began tallying votes for its gubernatorial candidates — through a complicated ranked-choice and weighted method — on Monday morning, more than a full day and a half after polls closed Saturday.
The candidates all expected the counting to take days, and while reports from campaigns and on-site media indicate the process is secure, the wait for the results underscores the unprecedented decisions the state party made for its elections this year.
Faced with heightened scrutiny following a 2020 general election rife with accusations of fraud and unable to hold a one-site convention event because of coronavirus restrictions, the RPV opted for an “unassembled” convention with a tedious ballot-counting process.
“We’ve never done anything like this on this scale before so there’s certainly a learning curve, but we’ve done a pretty good job getting our tellers educated on the process,” RPV spokesman John March told Breitbart News.
The decision came after months of internal debate among party leaders over whether to hold a primary or convention. After settling on the convention, RPV ran into the issue of not being able to hold the event at one location because of the restrictions on large gatherings and impossible drive-in logistics. The result was the “unassembled” convention, a primary-convention hybrid taking place Mother’s Day weekend at 39 polling locations across the state.
Delegates, that is, Virginians who signed up ahead of time and were vetted and approved by the RPV, were able to cast their ballots for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general at designated polling locations on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Ballot-counting would be done by hand, the party decided in advance of election day, and would not begin until the day after polls closed, once all ballot boxes had been transported to one central location at a Richmond hotel ballroom. The decision to hand-count the ballots came after a joint demand letter from three gubernatorial candidates, who said they felt the software the RPV initially planned to use was “untested and unproven” and would therefore create uncertainty.
The RPV also put forth a tabulation process that was far from simple. It chose to use ranked-choice voting — a method heavily favored by Democrats that requires a winning candidate to have garnered 50 percent of the vote — for its seven candidates for governor, six candidates for lieutenant governor, and four candidates for attorney general.
Ranked-choice voting forces elimination rounds, where a last place candidate is eliminated and voters who had put that candidate as their first choice would then have their second-choice candidate counted in a subsequent round. The rounds continue until one candidate achieves 50 percent of the vote.
March told Breitbart News the party went with this method because it mimics what would normally take place at a traditional convention. “A convention really is just ranked-choice voting,” March said. “It’s the exact same thing. … If we did it like this [for this year’s convention] it would take seven weeks to just vote,” he explained of the reasoning behind having voters rank their candidates on one ballot.
Adding another layer of complexity to the process, the RPV assigned weights to the votes, something March said the party has also done in past conventions.
The Virginia Public Access Project maintains a website compiling live data of the election results, and in a section titled “The GOP’s Convoluted Nomination Process,” it provides infographics about the formula for weighting votes, which factors in the number of ballots cast at any given locality and how that locality voted in 2020.
On Sunday night, after three rounds of tabulation, the RPV determined Del. Jason Miyares (R-Virginia Beach) narrowly defeated Chuck Smith for the nomination for attorney general. The RPV next began counting votes for the governor’s race at 9 a.m. local time on Monday.
March said the RPV had chosen to start with the race with the fewest candidates so those involved with counting could get acclimated with the process.
As far as communicating the elaborate election goings-on to the average Virginia citizen, March said, “We made a point to be extra transparent throughout this entire process. Ranked-choice is definitely the biggest hiccup for folks so far, but we’re doing as best we can to get our resources out to help people understand it.”
The RPV is posting live results in a basic spreadsheet format, as well as livestreaming the process, and, despite its intricacies, the gubernatorial candidates overall appear confident in how it has played out.
“We are closely monitoring and are involved as observers every step of the way,” said the campaign for Del. Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), who was formerly speaker of the Virginia House. Cox’s team told Breitbart News it has “no reason to doubt the process” based on what it has seen.
Cox, along with businessman Pete Snyder, former Carlyle Group CEO Glenn Youngkin, and state Sen. Amanda Chase, have separated themselves as frontrunners in the seven-way gubernatorial race. Snyder and Youngkin all but claimed victory in messages after polls closed.
Snyder said in a statement to Breitbart News he is confident in the convention process, calling it “fair” and saying he expects it “to be the most transparent in the long, storied history of our Commonwealth.”
“This has been the largest turnout in the history of conventions in America, fueled by a massive number of independent and many lean Democrat parents who are fed up with the insanity and turned out in droves to vote against closed schools and extremist propaganda in our classrooms,” Snyder stated.
While Chase, who has been hostile toward RPV’s decision to hold a convention, initially raised alarm bells Saturday about two localities “refusing observers,” a Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter said Sunday night, “For what its worth, Chase’s head observer Shayne Snavely says he has ‘complete confidence in the integrity’ of the count so far. … ‘The count is the count. Most fair and straight up I’ve ever seen’”:
For what its worth, Chase’s head observer Shayne Snavely says he has “complete confidence in the integrity” of the count so far after watching ballot boxes come in last night and monitoring things today.
“The count is the count. Most fair and straight up I’ve ever seen.”
— Mel Leonor (@MelLeonor_) May 9, 2021
Chase has suggested the convention process favors Snyder and threatened to run in the general election as an independent candidate if Snyder wins.
As far as turnout goes, the RPV announced a record 54,000 delegates had signed up to vote and indicated around 30,000 ended up casting ballots. For comparison, 360,000 voted in the state-run primary in 2017, and 8,000 cast ballots in a convention in 2013.
The results for governor could come as soon as early Monday evening, but could extend beyond that depending on how many rounds are necessary.
Write to Ashley Oliver at [email protected].