Secretary of State lends support to instant
By Krista Larson
March 10, 2002
Proponents of a bill that would allow instant runoffs
in state elections say the measure has widespread support among
On Town Meeting Day, 51 Vermont communities approved
nonbinding resolutions in favor of allowing instant runoffs.
"The results of the petitions across Vermont show that Vermonters
want to be electing their top officials," Secretary of State
Deb Markowitz said at news conference at her office on Monday. "They
don't want the government deciding, and Vermonters want to have
their reality match their expectations--that democracy means majority rule."
Currently if no candidate for governor, lieutenant governor or
treasurer receives a majority of the vote, the Legislature decides
"If we think that majority rule is majority of the
people get their way...then finding out that somebody could win and
run our state or our nation with only 40 percent of the vote comes
to them as a bad surprise," Markowitz said.
Under an instant runoff
system, voters rank their choice in races involving three or more
candidates, Markowitz said. If no candidate receives a majority of
the votes, the candidates with the fewest number of votes would be
Then all ballots would be counted again, with the votes of
those who had supported the dropped candidates shifting to their
second choice. The process would continue until one candidate has
received a majority of the vote.
The Senate Government Operations
Committee is currently considering a bill on instant runoffs.
Committee Chairman William Doyle, R-Washington, believes another
way to ensure a smooth gubernatorial transition would be to let the
top vote-getter win the election as occurs with congressional races.
Doyle said such a measure would require amending the state
constitution, a procedure that could not begin until next year and
would take several years to complete, including a statewide
referendum, he said.
"All the voters would vote up or down whether
they wanted the new system or not," Doyle said. "Otherwise you could
vote it in or out every two years."
Still supporters of the instant
runoff bill before the committee say they remain hopeful the measure
will gain momentum this legislative session.
"I think that the
biggest frustration has been that it hasn't really seen a lot of
debate in the Legislature," said Marge Gaskins, president of the
League of Women Voters of Vermont. "So we're certainly hoping that
that that will come about, and it can still come about this year for
Markowitz said Vermont is "a great size to be the place
that experiments" with instant runoff voting.
Similar measures also
will be considered in New Mexico, Arizona and Alaska, supporters
"In my experience with this issue, the biggest roadblock is
our ability to simply explain how it would work," Markowitz said.
"It really is a very simple process. We have figured out how to
design a ballot so that it wouldn't be confusing to people."