Vt House gives final approval to instant run off voting legislation

Bob Kinzel // Published March 14, 2008 in Vermont Public Radio

(Host) The Vermont House gave its final approval today to legislation implementing an instant run off voting system for Vermont's congressional elections.

Although the Senate has already passed the bill, it faces an uncertain future because Governor Jim Douglas opposes it. The Governor says the state's current voting system works well and that there's no need to change it.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The House vote was largely along party lines - most Republicans opposed it - most Democrats and Progressives supported it.

A look at this year's gubernatorial race offers a clue to the partisan nature of this issue.

Republican incumbent governor Jim Douglas says he'll be seeking a 4th term in office and Progressive Anthony Pollina formally announced his candidacy on Thursday.

This scenario presents a major challenge to any Democratic candidate contemplating a run for governor because Pollina's presence in the race will make it virtually impossible for a Democrat to win.

IRV removes the spoiler impact in a race because it allows voters to rank the candidates in order of preference and it comes into play only if no candidate receives 50% of the vote.

If that happens, the top two candidates remain in the contest and the second choice preferences on the ballots of the remaining candidates are tabulated, ultimately giving one of the top two candidates a majority.

Speaking on VPR's Vermont Edition, Douglas said he doesn't support IRV:

(Douglas) "I really believe that the election process that we've had in this country for so long means making a decision among candidates not making a hypothetical decision about whom my choice might be if my first preference isn't in the race I think it changes the dynamic of a political campaign"

Douglas says holding an actual run off with the top two candidates several weeks after the election would be better than IRV. But he doesn't like this plan either because he says it's not critical to ensure that the winning candidate gets a majority vote:

(Douglas) "I really think the process we have works you know the old saying if it ain't broke don't fix it and I really don't think it is broken sometimes it's true that we have candidates elected to Congress or the Legislature or municipal office for that matter with fewer than half the votes but I think on balance the process has served us well."

If the governor does veto the bill, it's appears unlikely that supporters in the House will be able to muster enough votes to override the veto.

For VPR News I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.