How the Virgin Islands could play a key role in choosing the GOP nominee

Published October 3, 2023

Washington Post

The Republican presidential nomination looks like it will be a runaway for Donald Trump. But if the former president is going to face any serious competition, the first clear indication could come from an unlikely place: the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The Virgin Islands has never before played a substantial role in a presidential election. Its residents are U.S. citizens, but they cannot vote in a general election because they live in a territory, not a state.

Both major parties have, however, traditionally allowed territories to elect a few delegates to their national conventions. And this is how Virgin Islands Republicans can influence the race.

The islands declared it will hold caucuses on Feb. 8, making the territory one of the first places to cast binding votes. And crucially, it will use ranked-choice voting to determine the winner in the GOP race.

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Henry Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He was the Thomas W. Smith distinguished scholar in residence at Arizona State University for the winter/spring 2023 semester.

Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, studies and provides commentary on American politics. His work focuses on how America’s political order is being upended by populist challenges, from the left and the right. He also studies populism’s impact in other democracies in the developed world.

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