Burlington IRV going smoothly

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(Host) Burlington officials say their first election using instant run off voting is going smoothly – not a lot of voters have had questions about the new system.

One national voting rights group hopes a positive experience in Burlington will encourage other cities and states to use the IRV system but the plan has some critics.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Election officials in Burlington were prepared today to field numerous questions from voters about how the new instant run off voting system works but it appears that most people didn’t need this assistance.

For the first time, Burlington is using the IRV system in the race for mayor.

The IRV process is used only if no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote.

Under this system, voters are asked to rank the candidates by preference – the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and the second choice preferences of their supporters are then tabulated.

This process continues until finally one candidate emerges with a majority of votes.

The Center for Voting and Democracy is a voting rights organization based in Maryland that strongly supports IRV.

Executive director Rob Ritchie thinks a lot of other cities are watching the Burlington IRV experience:

(Ritchie ) “I think that the main hurdle we’ve had we often have people say, I like that idea I want to do it’ and then they get concerned about whether they can implement it well. And I think that if we have real examples showing that, yes, American voters can handle the opportunity to rank candidates, that people will say, ok well not only is it a good idea but it seems to work’ and I think we will see some pretty quick action.”

(Kinzel) Not all political groups are enthusiastic about IRV. Republican state director Jim Barnet has some serious reservations about the process:

(Barnet) “I think that the ranking nature of the system encourages you to rank each candidate according to your preference. But I think what most voters would not consider is that it’s possible at some point in the process that a vote you cast well down the line of your preferred candidates as far as your rankings go could ultimately come back to haunt you. And I think that’s where it’s sort of a deceptive system – a non reform masquerading as a reform.”

(Kinzel) Barnet says his organization will oppose any legislative effort to implement IRV on a statewide basis and he believes the system can’t be put into place without the passage of a constitutional amendment.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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