Burlington Free Press
'Instant runoff' presents fair solution for
By Marge Gaskins
February 28, 2002
Unless the law is changed, it appears very likely that
the Legislature, ther than the majority of voters, will be selecting
our next governor. Under current rules, if no candidate gets a
majority on election day, then the Legislature, rather than the
voters, selects the governor.
The Vermont Constitution requires the governor to get
more than 50 percent of the votes. The Legislature has had to pick a
governor 21 times. Even for offices where the legislature cannot
step in, such as U.S. Senate, a problem exists. If several
candidates split the vote, a candidate actually opposed by most
voters can be declared elected. That is undemocratic.
The League of Women Voters believes that the majority
of voters should directly elect their leaders. We think most
Vermonters agree. The simplest solution is to adopt a voting reform
called "instant runoff voting." The League, along with a host of
citizen volunteers, has asked to have this item placed on town
meeting agendas across Vermont. About 50 towns will be voting on
this non-binding, advisory question at town meeting: "Shall the
Legislature be urged to change Vermont's voting law for statewide
elections, which currently can result in no candidate receiving a
majority and thus the selection of a governor by the Legislature
instead of the voters; and replace it with a system that allows
voters to rank their choices so that, without the need for a
separate runoff election, the candidate preferred by a majority of
voters is elected?"
Instant runoff voting is a voting method that
determines the majority winner, no matter how many candidates are in
a race. In a single election, it combines a regular election with a
runoff between the top vote-getters. This avoids the added cost and
lower voter turnout, typical of a separate runoff election.
Numerous Vermont organizations,
with many thousands of members, are advocating for instant runoff
voting, including the League of Women Voters, the State Grange,
Common Cause, the American Association of University Women, Vermont
Public Interest Research Group, The Older Women's League, and more.
Secretary of State Deb Markowitz, the top state election official,
and Gov. Howard Dean support it. Republican Ruth Dwyer was a sponsor
of the instant runoff bill when she was a member of the Vermont
House. Progressive Anthony Pollina has endorsed it. Fully one third
of the Vermont Senate, from across the political spectrum, have
co-sponsored legislation to adopt instant runoff
With instant runoff
voting you would still mark your ballot exactly as you do now, but
would also have the option of marking your runoff choices as well.
You would be allowed to do this by ranking candidates in order of
preference. If one candidate got over 50 percent that candidate
would win. But if it turned out that no candidate got more than half
of the first-choice votes, then an "instant runoff" count would take
place. The candidates at the bottom, with no chance of winning, are
eliminated in the instant runoff count. If your favorite is one of
the top candidates, your ballot still counts for that person. But if
your favorite is eliminated, your ballot automatically counts for
your next choice still in the race.
Since only first
choice votes are counted by the towns, the same as now, there would
be no added cost or burden on the town. If the statewide figures
reveal that an instant runoff is needed, it is done as a separate
tabulation. With instant runoff voting, everyone will know which
candidate is the choice of a majority of voters. For more
information on the Web, visit www.fairvotevermont.org or
call (802) 864-8382.
Marge Gaskins is president of the League of
Women Voters of Vermont.