What you need to know about Virginia’s GOP convention

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew

Virginia Republicans to select statewide nominees via convention Saturday

Republicans in Virginia will meet on Saturday—May 8—to select statewide nominees for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general. The Republican Party of Virginia chose to hold an unassembled convention rather than a primary, which means that delegates—voters who registered to participate in the convention—will decide the nominees.

Seven candidates are running for the Republican nomination for governor. Six candidates are seeking the party’s nod for lieutenant governor and four for attorney general. Incumbent Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is unable to seek re-election due to term limits. In Virginia, governors are limited to a single, four-year term and may not seek re-election. Democrats have won every statewide election in Virginia since 2012.  The last Republican to win the governorship was Bob McDonnell (R) in 2009. 

Conventions in Virginia typically take place with delegates meeting at a single location, but due to coronavirus restrictions the party developed a new set of rules for 2021. There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s take a look at how things will take place:

  • The convention is taking place from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET.
  • Delegates will meet at 39 different locations across the state. Each delegate represents a voting unit and may only vote at the polling place assigned to his or her given voting unit.
  • Over 53,000 delegates registered to participate in the convention.
  • Delegate votes are weighted. This means that the state party allocated a set number of votes to each voting unit, which will in turn be divided among the delegates assigned to that voting unit. For example, if the party allocated 100 votes to a unit and 100 delegates participated, each delegate would represent one vote. If 200 delegates participate in that voting unit, each delegate vote would count for half a vote.
  • The convention will use ranked-choice voting, which is an electoral system in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. A candidate who wins a majority of first preference votes is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. This counting process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority.
  • This is the Republican Party of Virginia’s second nomination process using ranked-choice voting. They first used the system to select its party chairman in 2020. This will be the first time the state party uses this method to nominate candidates.
  • All ballots will be counted by hand. After the convention, the ballots will be delivered to a central location, and counting will begin on Sunday. Party chairman Rich Anderson (R) said they are prepared to count until the following Thursday, but he expects counting to be finished by the following Tuesday.

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Pennsylvania voters to decide two amendments regarding the governor’s emergency powers 

Pennsylvania voters will decide two constitutional amendments May 18 on the governor’s emergency powers, which have been a point of conflict between the Republican-controlled legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf during the pandemic. 

One amendment would limit a governor’s emergency declaration to 21 days unless the legislature votes on a concurrent resolution to extend the order. The other amendment would allow the Pennsylvania General Assembly to pass a resolution, which the governor cannot veto, by a simple majority to extend or terminate the governor’s emergency declaration.

Amendment supporters argue that it mitigates the consolidation of power they say occurred during the pandemic. Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward (R-39) said, “Under Gov. Wolf’s current declaration of emergency for Covid-19, we are witnessing what consolidated power looks like: inconsistent vaccine roll outs, businesses that have been shuttered, nursing home residents who have suffered under the Department of Health, and hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers who continue to struggle to obtain unemployment benefits.”

Opposition to the amendment argue that it would slow down emergency response by the government and that it adds partisan politics to the process. Gov. Wolf stated, “[The constitutional amendment] would hinder our ability to respond quickly, comprehensively and effectively to a disaster emergency by requiring any declaration to be affirmed by concurrent resolution of the legislature every three weeks. This would force partisan politics into the commonwealth’s disaster response efforts and could slow down or halt emergency response when aid is most needed.”

The legislatures of four states—Alaska, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota—are required to vote on extending or terminating a governor’s emergency declarations.

  • In Kansas, the legislature must vote to extend or terminate the governor’s emergency order within 15 days after it is first issued.
  • In Michigan, the legislature must vote on the emergency order within 28 days.
  • In Alaska and Minnesota, the legislatures must vote to extend or terminate the governor’s emergency order within 30 days.

The following map illustrates which state legislatures can terminate a governor’s emergency declaration.

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Florida governor sets special election in state’s 20th Congressional District for Jan. 11, 2022

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) set the special election for Florida’s 20th Congressional District for Jan. 11, 2022. Party primaries will be held on Nov. 2. The election will fill the vacancy created when Alcee Hastings (D) died on April 6.

The Constitution requires that vacancies in the U.S. House are filled through an election. All states mandate a special election in the event of a vacancy in a U.S. House seat during the first session of Congress. If the vacancy occurs during the second session, requirements differ based on the length of time between when the vacancy occurs and the next general election. 

The process for filling House vacancies is distinct from that of filling vacancies in the U.S. Senate, where 37 states fill vacancies through gubernatorial appointment and the remaining 13 require a special election.

Ballotpedia identified the 57 U.S. House special elections that took place since 2011 and calculated the number of days from the date the vacancy occurred until the date of the special election. There are 280 days from the date Hastings died to the special election date of Jan. 11, 2022, which is the fourth-longest period during that time. The average number of days over that period between the date the vacancy occurred to the corresponding special election is 153 days.

The chart below shows the number of U.S. House special elections since 2011 that occurred within each range of days after the vacancy occurred.

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About the author

Dave Beaudoin

Dave Beaudoin is a project director at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.