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WCAX-TV Burlington, VT

Election Reform Group Pushes Again for New Voting System
December 16, 2002

There's a fresh coat of paint going on the Lieutenant Governors office at the statehouse in Montpelier. They're sprucing the room up for Lt. Governor-Elect Brian Dubie. But because Dubie was elected with just 41 percent of the vote, technically he still needs to be elected by the legislature before he can take office in January.

A group of election reform advocates are pushing for a new voting system in Vermont. The coalition is circulating a petition asking state lawmakers to enact a system called Instant Runoff Voting.

One of the worst things you can do in a democracy is tell voters their votes don't count," said Paul Burns of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. "That's essentially what we have happening where next month it will be the legislature instead of the voters to elect top leaders in our state."

Burns and other members of the coalition point out that IRV received non-binding support at fifty town meetings last March and the current petition has received a lot of support.

"I spent about three days and collected three hundred signature in just four of five hours," said Coalition member Jesse Rosato.

Under Vermont's current system, when no candidate gets fifty percent of the vote at the polls, the legislature decides the election. With an instant runoff system, voters rank the candidates in order of preference on their ballots. If no candidate gets a full fifty percent of the vote, then second choice votes are counted for the top two candidates until someone reaches fifty percent. The coalition claims enacting instant runoff voting would not require a constitutional amendment.

"The question about a constitutional amendment needs to be addressed because many attorneys tell me that they believe it does," said Governor Elect Jim Douglas.

Douglas is another candidate the group claims would benefit from the system. But Douglas is opposed to Instant Runoff Voting.

"I don't think a 'what if' scenario is the best option on a ballot," said Douglas.

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