Is It Time for Instant Runoff Voting in Vermont?

Is It Time for Instant Runoff Voting in Vermont?


by Betty Keller

The St. Johnsbury Unit of the LWV Vermont is excited to be getting started on a long-term goal of leading Vermont to “Instant Runoff Voting,” also known as “Ranked Choice Voting.” 

Each election method has pros and cons, but in 1999 the LWVVT studied the choices and decided IRV was the best method to achieve the best voter participation and the outcome most reflective of the voters’ wishes. The NEK Unit reviewed the issue again this past spring, and confirmed that no election method has been identified as better than IRV for our goals. 

With the League’s advocacy, the Vermont legislature approved IRV in 2000, but Gov. Douglas vetoed it. Burlington gave it a try for city elections, but with insufficient voter education and strong opposition from active members of the major parties, it was rescinded after only one election. 

In light of the 2016 Presidential election, in which both major party candidates had highly unfavorable ratings and many voters stayed home, this is the time to work for this again. Indeed, Maine had the perfect setting of a Governor winning with only a plurality a couple of time back-toback, and a large number of voters wishing their second choice had won if their first choice couldn’t. So in 2016, LWV of Maine worked with allies to get a referendum passed in Maine, and voters approved moving to Instant Runoff Voting for state-wide offices in future elections. Vermont’s constitution does not allow for binding resolutions from the vote of citizens; it must be passed by the state legislature. So although we hope to learn a lot from the LWV of Maine, our process will need to be a little different. But now the time is ripe.

Thus at our state convention this summer in Randolph, we voted to advocate for and educate about IRV as part of our biennium program. So St. Johnsbury leaguers are now reaching out to find out who else in the state is interested in assisting in this adventure.

Something this big needs to be run like a campaign, with a timeline for actions to take toward the goal, and people identified for the different tasks. We can look at who the allies were 18 years ago, but we must seek more allies. We can look at our strategy 18 years ago, but times have changed; people communicate differently, our culture is different, and frankly, we need to make a stronger impact this time. This time, we want it to stick, and be an example to other states, so that we can have a stronger democracy

Volunteers will be needed to:

  • Gather information from Maine.
  • Develop a strategy with a desired timeline.
  • Review the old bill, compare to bills in other locations, and provide recommendations for wording for a new bill.
  • Gather educational materials for a variety of age ranges, from school-aged through senior citizen, and identify venues for their use.
  • Develop educational materials where we have a need.
  • Approach teachers and school boards about incorporating education about different election methods into their civics education, or running mock elections demonstrating IRV.
  • Assist in the classroom, in situations where teachers would like help teaching about elections or running mock elections.
  • Plan events for teaching adults about different election methods, about pros and cons, and about how IRV works.
  • Plan events for citizens to advocate for IRV with their legislators and the governor, or to train citizens how to do that.
  • Write letters to the editor in support of IRV.
  • Write press releases about events supporting or educating about IRV.
  • Distribute press releases that others have written.
  • Write Front Porch Forum blurbs supporting or educating about IRV.
  • Distribute FPF blurbs that others have written

The first step is gathering information from LWV Maine.   Betty Keller has arranged for a conference call with a couple of members of the LWV of Maine, and two additional conference call times to start working on strategy for education and advocacy.

The conference call times are:

  • Wednesday, October 18 at 9:30 AM - Learn from LWV Maine’s example
  • Wednesday, October 25 at 10:00 AM - Follow Up
  • Wednesday, November 1 at 10:00 AM - Develop strategy for Instant Runoff Voting for VT

If you are unable to participate Wednesday mornings but are interested, let Betty know: Your name, email address, town, and phone number; time of day/day of week that is best for you for participating on phone calls; time of day/day of week that you may be available for face-to-face meetings, and how far you are willing to travel. Of the work that needs to be done, what interests you most? Do you have any special skills to offer? (Writing, editing, making cold calls, public speaking, making power points, making flyers, teaching how to write letters to the editor, planning events, using twitter, anything else you can think of?)

Join the effort to establish Instant Runoff Voting, aka Ranked Choice Voting

“Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

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