by Brandon Jarvis

Republicans across Virginia will be casting their vote for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general in an unassembled convention on May 8. Nearly 54,000 delegates have signed up to participate in the process that is usually complicated even during a normal year.

Each convention is unique, but this year will be distinctive due to COVID-19 protocols still in place limiting large gatherings of people. After months of deliberations among party leaders on how to execute the nomination contest, the specifics of how the process will function have been mostly finalized.  

The delegates had to register to represent their local unit by filing a form prior to the deadline, which varied by locality. The local committees then voted to approve their list of registered delegates before submitting the lists to the State Central Committee (SCC), the body that governs the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV). This is done to try and ensure that only Republicans participate in the nomination process. 

“It is to determine that they are fairly reliable Republicans in some way,” said RPV Chairman Rich Anderson in an interview. “[Like] the Kiwanis club doesn’t invite the Lions club to come in and vote for their president.”  

In a typical convention, those delegates would then prepare to possibly spend an entire day at the convention site voting in different rounds until a candidate earns 50% plus one. But due to COVID-19 restrictions, this convention will look different compared to ones of the past. It will be unassembled with delegates voting at 39 different locations across Virginia in a ranked-choice fashion. 

At the busier locations, delegates will pull up and vote from their car. Anderson says some locations will have multiple lanes, like a Fairfax location that will have eight lanes for example. Once the delegates reach the front of the line, they will be given a ballot with three groupings, governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general. 

The delegates will then rank the candidates in order of preference — one through seven for governor, one through six for lieutenant governor, and one through four for attorney general. “When they are through they will drop that in the ballot box located next to their automobile and they’re free to drive off,” Anderson said. “This lets there be one transaction and then they’re out of there.” 

The vote-from-car method won’t necessarily be universal, Anderson said. Some of the smaller locations will be able to let delegates enter into a building to vote while still following COVID-19 protocols. 

After voting is completed Saturday at 4 p.m., the ballots will be transferred to a central location in Richmond for hand counting — which is set to begin Sunday. 

While the exact location has not been finalized, Anderson says it will need to be a large enough location to follow COVID-19 guidelines and support the convention staff as well as the sixty people tasked with counting and tabulating the results.

One important aspect of counting the votes includes the fact that not all votes are equal. Individual votes are weighted by locality depending on past turnout in elections. “Each unit is allocated one delegate vote for each two hundred fifty votes or major portion thereof cast for the Republican nominee in the most recent elections for President and Governor, provided that each unit shall be entitled to at least one delegate vote,” the Party Plan reads. 

Anderson says they will be live streaming the counting and tabulation process and bringing in an independent oversight team from another state to monitor the process. Additionally, each of the 17 candidates will be allowed to have one representative in the room to observe counting. “I want them to feel comfortable with the process, to understand it, and to have confidence in the final outcomes,” Anderson said. “Every individual ballot will be seen by several eyes at the same time.”

Party officials have not decided yet as to whether they will announce the results of one race if they have a winner, or wait until all of the winners have been chosen. Anderson said they are discussing how to handle that and will likely seek input from the candidates. 

As far as the timing of the results, they are prepared to count until Thursday if needed, but Anderson expects the counting process to be finished by Tuesday. Either way, he says he wants to take the time to make sure the results are accurate. “Even though there will be suspense associated with this, I believe it is better to move carefully and methodically to have a good outcome that everybody trusts,” Anderson said. 

Listen to the full audio interview with Chairman Rich Anderson below:

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By vascope