Markowitz Urges Legislative Action on Instant Runoff

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(Host) Secretary of State Deb Markowitz is urging lawmakers to consider legislation that would implement an instant runoff election system in Vermont.

Last week on Town Meeting Day, this issue was placed before voters in 54 towns as a non-binding referendum. Fifty of the towns supported the measure.

The instant runoff plan would go into effect if no candidate for statewide office received 50% of the vote. The key to the plan is that voters would have the opportunity to list a second choice in a particular race.

If their first choice candidate was not one of the top two vote getters, that candidate would be eliminated from the contest. Then the voter’s second choice would be tabulated with the remaining candidates in an instant runoff.

Now, under the Vermont Constitution, if no candidate receives 50% of the vote, the election is decided by the Legislature in a secret ballot. Markowitz thinks many voters want to end that practice and recognize that Vermont is becoming a multi-party state:

(Markowitz) "I think what this tells us, though, is that the people of Vermont are interested in this idea ¿ and at least want the Legislature to give it a fair shake and take a look at it and take testimony and consider it seriously."

(Host) Markowitz says it would take a constitutional amendment to fully implement the new plan. She thinks the passage of legislation this session would be a key first step in changing the current election law.

The legislation is currently bottled up in the Senate Government Operations Committee, where the six members of the panel are evenly divided over this issue.

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