Advocates debate Instant Runoff Voting

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(Host) Supporters of the Instant Runoff Voting system say their plan will boost voter turnout in Vermont and remove the Legislature from the process of electing statewide officials. Under the Vermont Constitution, lawmakers decide statewide races if no candidate receives 50% of the vote. This situation took place this year since neither Governor Jim Douglas or Lieutenant Governor Brian Dubie received a majority of votes in their contests.

Under the Instant Runoff Voting system, voters would rank the candidates. The second place votes of the lower tiered candidates would be added to the top two vote getters, insuring that one of the candidates received a majority of votes.

Speaking last night on VPR’s Switchboard program, IRV supporter Paul Burns said Vermont’s current system needs to be changed so that voters and not lawmakers elect statewide candidates:

(Burns) “Instant Runoff, again it equals majority rule. It’s a simple method of having a runoff all at the same time that you vote and it works in many places. And I think that’s why so many people support it, including groups as varied as the Grange, the League of Women Voters and VPIRG.”

(Host) But former Williston Representative Michael Quaid argued that IRV will hurt the two-party system in Vermont and will lead to more extremism in politics:

(Quaid) “When you start splintering into smaller parties, which IRV will favor, you’re going to have certainly more extreme parties, which could even endanger minority rights. I certainly believe fraud could increase, especially with absentee voting.”

(Host) The Senate Government Operations Committee is expected to take testimony on the IRV plan in the next few weeks.

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