Instant Runoff Voting Plan Faces Opponents

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(Host) Opponents of a state-wide Instant Runoff Voting plan say they’re likely to fight legislation that would allow the city of Burlington to use I-R-V in future mayoral contests. The House is expected to debate the bill in the next few weeks.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) On Town Meeting Day, Burlington voters gave their approval to the instant runoff plan by a two-to-one margin. Because voters adopted the measure as part of a charter change, the issue must be reviewed by the Legislature. Under Burlington’s current charter, a runoff election is held if no candidate in the mayor’s race receives forty percent of the vote. The provision has never been used.

IRV allows voters to list their first, second and third choices and it’s used only if no candidate receives a majority of votes cast. If the runoff provision is needed, the candidates with the lowest totals are eliminated and the second choice preferences of their supporters are tabulated until one candidate finally emerges with a majority of votes.

Burlington Representative Bill Keogh thinks the city’s charter change has state-wide implications:

(Keoght) “If the Legislature approves this IRV then you will find my guess is that Burlington will come back for an IRV for city councilors and other elected offices. But this whole IRV concept does have state-wide impact.”

(Kinzel) Kurt Wright is another representative from Burlington and is a newly elected member of the city council. He opposes instant runoff voting:

(Wright) “I think that it’s frankly in Burlington it’s a solution in search of a problem we have not had any clamoring for a change in our election system in Burlington. It’s worked fine for many years we haven’t had runoffs in the mayor’s races I don’t think people are really concerned about the fact that a candidate can win with forty-five percent.”

(Kinzel) The issue is being reviewed by the House Government Operations committee. Windsor Rep. Donna Sweaney is the chair of the panel. She thinks the Legislature has a responsibility to support local charter changes in most cases.

(Sweaney)”I would be respectful of the people who vote and say that this is what we want in our community and it’s local control. And I would want us to be respectful of their wishes as long as they are within the law.”

(Kinzel) Sweaney says she’d like her committee to vote on the bill this year because Burlington will have an election for mayor next winter.

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

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