Middlebury professor says instant runoff bill could defuse tense parties

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According to Middlebury College political science professor, Eric Davis, state Democrats might be able to defuse growing tensions with the Progressive Party in Vermont if they bring an instant run off voting bill up for a vote in the Legislature next winter.

State Democratic party leaders say they’re willing to support independent Congressman Bernie Sanders in his bid for the U.S. Senate in 2006 but they want Sanders to convince members of the Progressive Party not to run candidates in the U.S. House race or the Lt. Governor’s contest.

The Progressives have said they have no interest in this kind of “deal making,” and several prominent members of the Party say they’re seriously looking at these two races.

Speaking last night on VPR’s Switchboard program, Davis said a lot could change in the next few months.

(Davis) “Well a lot of what’s going on now is jockeying the filing deadline for these races isn’t until July of 2006. So there might be a lot of positioning going on right now, where candidates want to sort of lay down a marker but not necessarily actually turn in those petitions in July.”

(HOST) Davis says the Democrats might be able to patch up their relationship with the Progressives if the Democrats agreed to seriously consider an instant run off voting system for both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House races.

That’s system that 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 that happens, 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 total.

(Davis) “Some progressives seem to be indicating that one of the things they’d like to come out of this would be the Democrats in the Legislature voting next year to change the election rules for at least the U.S. House and U.S. Senate, where there would no issues about the Vermont Constitution.”

(HOST) Lawmakers have given their approval to a plan to use the Instant Run Off voting system in next year’s mayor’s race in Burlington.

Voters in the city adopted the change to their charter on Town Meeting day by nearly a two to one margin.

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