Committee endorses IRV study

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(Host) The Senate Government Operations has endorsed a comprehensive study to see whether instant run off voting should be used statewide.

Backers of the plan want to learn how IRV will affect small communities that still use paper ballots.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) While lawmakers have studied instant run off voting for several years, the committee’s action marks the first time the bill has been sent to the Senate floor for a vote.

The instant run system would be used only if no candidate for statewide office receives 50 % of the vote.

Under IRV, voters are allowed to list the candidates by preference. The candidates with the lowest totals are eliminated and the second choice preferences of their supporters are tabulated until one candidate emerges with a majority of votes.

IRV was used recently in the Burlington mayor’s race because no candidate received 50% of the vote. Progressive Bob Kiss, who led after the first round, was elected through the IRV process.

Senate Government Operations committee chairman Jim Condos says Burlington’s positive experience indicates that IRV might work on a statewide basis – but he says the mechanics of the plan need to be studied.

(Condos) “That is exactly the point of the study – to find out what are the challenges that would face us as we go down this road. This has no dates in it that we’re trying to set it up this has no dates that we will implement. All it does is say we need to understand the mechanics and essentially it would provide us more information to make a more informed decision in January or February of next year, which is the beginning of the constitutional amendment process if we choose to go that direction”

(Kinzel) Bennington senator Mark Shepard doesn’t like IRV – he prefers an actual run off that would be held several weeks after the original election.

He also questions why this bill has taken on a sense of urgency in the final weeks of the session. He thinks the Democrats have cut a deal with Progressives at the Statehouse.

(Shepard) “My point is that we’re told on bill after bill we can’t do anything about it. Bills are coming over from the House are all going into the Rules Committee. Nothing can be done. This bill is growing legs and I think it’s all politically motivated. It’s a deal.”

(Kinzel) The bill could be on the Senate floor for a vote in the next few days.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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