Runoff election advocated
By Alan J. Keays
December 27, 2001
The League of Women Voters of
Vermont wants to change the way Vermonters vote for governor.
league's plan calls for voters to rank candidates, creating a runoff
system to decide an election if no one receives a majority of
The group wants a non-binding referendum item on
Town Meeting Day ballots in all Vermont cities and towns to gauge
public opinion on the proposal.
"We have been trying to get some
action in the Legislature on this issue for some time. So far, it
hasn't passed both houses," Margaret Gaskins, league president, said
Wednesday. "We're interested in what the people of Vermont have to
Now, in a race of three or more candidates for governor and
some other state offices, if no candidate receives a majority, the
Legislature decides the winner.
"The League wants to persuade the
Legislature to change this system to one that determines a majority
winner in a single election and keeps the selection of the governor
in the hands of the voters," the league wrote in a letter to
municipalities. "That is why we are soliciting grassroots opinion
through the local democratic process of town meeting."
the Legislature has decided statewide elections more than 70 times.
There were some people who thought it might occur again last year
as a result of a three-way race for governor between Democrat Gov.
Howard Dean, Republican challenger Ruth Dwyer and Progressive
But Dean was able to collect just over 50 percent
of the votes.
An instant runoff system would let voters rank their
choice for governor in races involving three or more candidates,
Gaskins said. If no candidate received a majority of the votes, the
candidate with the least number of votes would be dropped, she said.
Then all ballots would be counted again, with the votes of those
who had supported the dropped candidate shifting to their second
choice. The process would continue until one candidate has received
a majority of the vote.
Courts would count runoff ballots, just
like a recount vote is counted now, Gaskins said.
runoff format proposed by the league is called "preferential voting"
in Robert's Rules of Order.
Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz
said Wednesday she supports the instant runoff voting.
our system to give us majority rule and, in reality, we have
plurality rule," she said. "I think instant runoff voting is an
excellent, excellent idea."
However, Markowitz said, it's up to
municipal leaders to decide whether the non-binding referendum item
should be placed on local ballots.
"Towns feel all different ways
about putting things on the local ballot," she said. "I wouldn't
urge a town one way or the other on this."
The league sent letters
out about two weeks ago asking towns to place the referendum item on
the March ballots, Gaskins said. She said she didn't know how many
towns had agreed to do so.
"It's still early," she said. "Towns
have a little while longer to decide."
It will be on the ballot in
at least one Rutland County community on Town Meeting Day, March 5:
Steven Jefffrey, executive director of the Vermont
League of Cities and Towns, said Wednesday he hadn't heard how many
towns would place the item on the ballot.
He said it's not unusual
for organizations to seek to have non-binding referendum items
placed on ballots across the state.
For instance, he said, several
years ago the Vermont League asked that communities get voters'
opinion on unfunded state mandates.
"We got on the ballot in about
95 towns," Jeffrey said, out of 246 cities and towns in the state.
Gaskins said she had no idea how many communities would end up
voting on her organization's question.
"We'd like to see it on as
many ballots as possible," she said.