Supporters gather signatures for Instant Runoff Voting

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(Host) Supporters of an instant runoff voting (IRV) plan say they’ll urge the Legislature to adopt their proposal this winter. The plan faces a tough battle in the General Assembly and Governor-elect Jim Douglas says he’ll oppose it.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Backers of the IRV plan are now gathering citizen petitions from throughout the state to help convince lawmakers that the proposal has a lot of support.

Under the IRV process, voters would rank candidates in their order of preference. If no candidate receives 50% of the vote, the second choice votes for minor candidates would be tabulated and then added to the totals of the leading candidates, until one candidate did receive a majority of votes cast.

Under the Vermont Constitution, if no candidate for most statewide offices receives 50% of the vote, the election is decided by the Legislature. This will actually happen this January because Republican candidate Jim Douglas received roughly 45% of the votes on Election Day. Democratic candidate Doug Racine got 42%, but Racine has urged all lawmakers to vote for Douglas because he received the most votes.

Bob Walker, who is spokesperson for the Voters’ Choice Coalition, says this current system must be changed:

(Walker) “We feel the information is fresh in people’s mind with the situation that could happened. And people understand the great need for trying to restore the choice of governor to the people. So we’re hoping to get it passed through this coming session if we can.”

(Kinzel) Walker notes that Vermont might well have a different lieutenant governor in January if the IRV plan had been in place. Democratic candidate Peter Shumlin and Progressive candidate Anthony Pollina together received roughly 58% of vote, allowing Republican Brian Dubie to win with approximately 41%:

(Walker) “I think either one of them probably would have won singularly in a head on head with Brian Dubie. But because this system is now in place, you end up with a candidate who probably might have been the third choice of most voters.”

(Kinzel) Governor-elect Jim Douglas doesn’t like IRV. Douglas says it’s hard for voters to understand and changes the basic framework of the election process:

(Douglas) “I’ve always believed that an election is a contemporaneous, actual choice among candidates – not a hypothetical that may be activated under certain future circumstances. It just doesn’t feel right to me. I really think we ought to either have an actual run-off election as Louisiana does, or let the candidate with the most votes win.”

(Kinzel) The Senate Government Operations Committee is expected to review this issue in January.

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

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