Secretary of State candidates spar over IRV

Bob Kinzel // Published October 16, 2008 in Vermont Public Radio

(Host) The major party candidates for Secretary of State strongly disagree over the issue of instant runoff voting. IRV allows voters to list candidates in an order of preference and it's used only if no candidate receives at least 50 percent of the vote.

Governor Jim Douglas vetoed an IRV bill during the 2008 session that would have implemented this system for federal elections in Vermont.

Speaking last night during VPR's Secretary of State's debate, Democratic incumbent Deb Markowitz expressed her support for the IRV bill:

(Markowitz) "I think it's important when our systems match people's expectations when government delivers and match what people are expecting and I believe that people believe that democracy is majority rule and when we have plurality elections it creates cynicism."

(Host) But Republican challenger Gene Bifano opposes the bill because he believes this system will undermine the democratic process in Vermont. Bifano says he does support the concept of a real run off between the top two candidates in a statewide race that would be held several weeks after the General Election:

(Bifano) "With instant run off if I can put Governor Douglas as one and Governor Douglas as two and Governor Douglas as three once that happened I lose my vote and that's not right so I don't think the instant run off is a good idea at all and I think that if we wanted do that we have a mini run off and go for it that way."

(Host) That suggestion was rejected by Progressive candidate Marjorie Power:

(Power) "The experience of places that actually have the second election the number of people voting falls off dramatically and since we've discovered that the number of people voting in the first place is not very high we don't want to encourage things that would cause a fall off."

(Host) Power says IRV is the best and most efficient way to ensure that candidates elected to office receive more than 50 percent of the vote.