| Daniel P. Cortez | Fredericksburg.com |

Last Friday on Women’s Equality Day, the 42nd lieutenant governor of Virginia, Winsome Earle-Sears, received the highest Marine tribute during ceremonies at Marine Barracks 8th and I Street in Washington, D.C.

Being the guest of honor during the final Friday night parade at the “oldest post of the Corps” remains a distinction reserved for the most prominent national or international dignitaries. Sears, being a former enlisted Marine, the first woman of color and Jamaican-born citizen elected to Virginia statewide office, made the night a historic one.

But without ranked choice voting, this historic event may have never occurred.

Signed into Virginia law in 2020, ranked choice voting played a significant role in the 2021 Republican convention.

It’s a concept whose time has come.

Frustrated over the outreach and senior leadership failures of the Republican Party of Virginia, independents and rank-and-file conservatives embraced former Gov. George Allen’s intervention promoting ranked choice voting, allowing candidates with a popular appeal to be placed on the ballot.

More-progressive states such as California, Colorado, and New York successfully use ranked choice voting, as well as the conservative strongholds of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

Political operatives acknowledge that ranked choice voting was a contributing factor to the conservative election sweep in Virginia this past November.

Earle-Sears indicated appreciation of the independent vote facilitated by ranked choice voting, and continues to initiate meetings with citizens, as well as educators, and business groups across Virginia.

Seeing the value and broad appeal of ranked choice voting, UpVote Virginia was developed from the nonpartisan group OneVirginia2021, which sought to take redistricting power away from the General Assembly and give it to a map-drawing commission that was politically neutral.

In the group’s launch video, founding Executive Director Liz White shares concerns that the nation’s representative democracy is failing voters with “extreme polarization, legislative gridlock, and no incentive for our elected officials to come together.”

White is correct, acknowledging the need to partner with individuals like the Republican Allen and Democrat Congressman Don Beyer to focus on foundational nonpartisan solutions elevating Virginian’s voices through education, advocacy, and grassroots mobilization.

Ranked choice voting has been designated as the group’s flagship issue. And speaking as one fiercely independent and jaded voter; it’s a concept whose time has come. Not just for elated conservative voters, but frustrated liberals sensing responsible opportunity for positive change in November and beyond.

Ranked choice voting is not a panacea, as seen in Alaska. There, conservative former governor Sarah Palin launched a fierce backlash following her loss to Democrat Mary Peltola over its use.

Consensus-building localities like Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Spotsylvania seeking more independent, Democrat, or Republican participation should use ranked choice voting. Aside from more voter participation, we may see more barriers being broken out nontraditional candidates being honored at Marine Barracks 8th and I.

Daniel P. Cortez of Stafford serves as the volunteer co-chairman of Latinos for Youngkin coalition.

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