Ranked Choice Voting in Vermont
February 12, 2009
HOW INSTANT RUNOFF'S WORKING IN VERMONT
Terry Bouricius is a former city councilor and state legislator from Vermont
Terry Bouricius, Fair Vote - Here in Burlington, the second mayoral election using instant runoff voting is less than three weeks away. There is a spirited campaign with five candidates, four of whom are seen as having a serious chance of winning.
The incumbent mayor from the Progressive Party, Bob Kiss, is running for re-election. His opponents are the current president of the city council, Republican Kurt Wright, Democratic councilor Andy Montroll (a past city council president), Dan Smith, an independent whose father was a Republican Member of Congress and who is running as a "post-partisan" "entrepreneurial" candidate, and a political novice, Green Party candidate James Simpson.
Under the old city charter, Burlington would likely be looking at a runoff election a few weeks later (with the desperate flurry of campaign fund-raising, mud-slinging, and added tax-payer expense that generally entails). However, with the ranked-choice ballot, Burlington will finish its mayoral election on March 3.
With plurality elections, candidates on the same side of the political spectrum, who appeal to the same slice of the electorate, often seek to demonize each other. Again, this dynamic is absent under IRV.
Because candidates know they may need the second choices from voters who support other candidates as their top pick, the campaigns are remaining civil, and attempting to reach out to a broader constituency, than would be typical in a plurality election. A door-knocker for one of the campaigns recently knocked on our door, and had a conversation with my wife. When told that we were supporting one of the other candidates, this campaign worker said, "I can see that your mind is made up, but I hope you'll look over this leaflet and consider giving my guy your second choice."