Daily Hampshire Gazette
consider runoff system
By Kay J. Moran
October 11, 2002
Meeting this fall will consider whether to support the
instant-runoff voting system for filling Select Board seats.
approved, the warrant article would direct the board to ask the
Legislature for a special act to implement the system. The article
was placed on the warrant by citizen petition.
Town Meeting begins
Here's how instant-runoff voting works:
candidates are running for a single office, voters rank them in
order of preference on the ballots. A candidate getting a clear
majority wins. If no one has a clear majority, ballots for the low
vote-getter are redistributed according to second choice among the
remaining candidates. The process continues until a clear winner
The process would be exactly the same when two offices are
to be filled from a field of candidates, as often happens in Select
Board races, Bart Bouricius of Mountain View Circle told the Select
Board last week.
"I think it makes ultimate sense to have people
with the most support win the elections," he said.
instant-runoff proponents came to the Select Board requesting an
advisory question on the ballot for March elections. At the time,
board members suggested going to Town Meeting instead. They also had
questions about the system, including its cost and whether it would
work in an election to fill two offices at once.
sticking points for Select Board members Monday.
software to adapt the town's computerized voting machines to the
system is readily available. However, Nancy Maglione, director of
administration and finance, said she didn't know whether that
software could work in the voting machines at the same time as
software handling the usual sort of elections for other town
Chairman Carl Seppala thought instant-runoff voting would
make it more difficult for voters favoring two candidates equally.
"If there are two slots open, you can only make one first choice,"
he said. "You can't vote for two."
Bouricius replied that the two
candidates supported by the most voters would win anyway. In an
interview later, however, he acknowledged that in certain
circumstances, a candidate who was everyone's second choice could
lose to someone favored by fewer people.
"You could get a result
that's no better than the regular plurality voting," he said. "But
statistically, it would happen much less frequently. None of these
systems is perfect."
Though board member Eddy Goldberg likes the
concept, he said during the meeting, "It's got too many problems for
me. It would work better for only one winner. And our government may
be changing, anyway."
The Charter Commission this week completed
work on a proposed new mayor-manager-council form of government that
Amherst residents will vote on next spring. Instant-runoff voting as
a way of electing the mayor was in a draft charter presented in
August but has been eliminated from the final version.
have also placed an advisory question about using the instant-runoff
method to elect statewide offices on the November ballot for Amherst
and Northampton voters.