Folks, Instant runoff voting is looking really good this year in Burlington. See a couple news articles about it below, including a news story about voterMessage 1 of 1 , Mar 3, 2009View SourceFolks,
Instant runoff voting is looking really good this year in Burlington. See a couple news articles about it below, including a news story about voter reactions today and one on Sunday in the Burlington Free Press that includes this golden quote from a Democratic city councilor, Bill Keogh:
"This campaign has been very, very good," he said. "The city is lucky to have four good, willing candidates. They've all attended just about every
single forum and debate to which they've been invited - sometimes twice in a night. They've been out front and as forthright as they can be with
their views. This is the most respectful and informative campaign in Burlington in a long time."
Also below is an excellent commentary from the local League of Women Voters about IRV from yesterday's Free Press
Stay turned for results! There are four candidates with a real shot at winning.
The Burlington Free Press
Instant runoff likely in Burlington
By John Briggs, Free Press Staff Writer March 1, 2009
Four Burlington mayoral candidates anticipate a victory party Tuesday night, but little evidence exists to buttress anyones claim to front-runner status.
The contenders: Progressive Mayor Bob Kiss, Democratic Councilor Andy Montroll, independent Dan Smith and Republican City Council President Kurt Wright. The Green Partys James Simpson also is on the ballot but hasnt participated in the many campaign forums, and none of the other candidates expects him to receive other than token votes.
Four strong candidates with subtle differences and obvious support make Tuesdays winner anyones best guess even five months after the challengers began to surface. And, with no one expected to win more than 50 percent of the votes, the race will come down to who residents think would be second- or even third-best for the job.
Itll be an IRV finish, neck and neck between Kurt and Andy, predicted Democratic city councilor Bill Keogh, Ward 5. He based his prediction on conversations with a lot of people.
IRV refers to the instant runoff voting system first used in 2006. Voters rank the candidates, and if their first choice is eliminated, their second choice becomes a vote for one of the remaining candidates. That computer-scanning of the ballots continues until one of the candidates receives more than 50 percent of the vote.
Jane Knodell, a 14-year Progressive councilor from Ward 2 who is leaving the council, said she expects Mayor Kiss and Wright to be the top two vote-getters in the first IRV round.
She said Wright vying to become only the citys second Republican mayor since 1965 would do well in the large wards of the New North End and add support across the city. I have a hard time believing he wouldnt be in the top two, she said.
Town Meeting Day preview
I think it will go three rounds, she said. The more even it is on the first ballot, the more (likely it is) we could get surprising or unexpected results in the end.
Long, clean race
The race began in early October when Montroll made clear his intentions to try to regain City Hall for the Democrats for the first time since Progressive Bernie Sanders upset Mayor Gordon Paquette by 10 votes in 1981. Smith and Wright soon joined the chase after Kiss announced re-election plans.
The difficulty for voters in choosing among them is apparent to Keogh.
This campaign has been very, very good, he said. The city is lucky to have four good, willing candidates. Theyve all attended just about every single forum and debate to which theyve been invited sometimes twice in a night. Theyve been out front and as forthright as they can be with their views. This is the most respectful and informative campaign in Burlington in a long time.
The four candidates agree that Burlington is, as Montroll says repeatedly, a city we love to live in a pretty, civilized city in an enviable location. None of them contests the political sensibility that has transformed the city during the last 30 years from a faltering industrial town into one of the countrys most livable and tourist-beckoning cities. All vow to encourage business development.
Additionally, the challengers to Kiss havent generally disputed his contention that the city, under his leadership, is now on a firm financial footing. The financial reserve is solid, as is the citys credit rating. And none of Kiss challengers has criticized him for avoiding a General Fund tax increase the last two years.
Kiss: Disengaged, or not
Kiss made his case for re-election unemotionally in a My Turn piece in last Sundays Free Press. The city continues to thrive in many ways, he wrote, and we are well-positioned to weather the current economic situation. ... In these uncertain times, we need steady and proven leadership to keep us moving forward.
Kiss highlights as successes of his administration the voter-approved plan to refurbish the waterfront Moran plant; new revenue streams from the local sales tax, and from fee-for service agreements with the University of Vermont and Champlain College; the sale of city land to the Intervale Foundation to guarantee sustainable agriculture there; and the recent voter approval of a tax increase and bond issue to repair city streets. That, he said of the streets, will show up this summer.
We have an effective team in place, he said. Were building a sustainable future. Now is not the time to lose ground. All the accolades we get from around the country Burlington deserves them.
The challengers, however, argue that Kiss has been a listless chief executive disengaged, in Wrights view.
Smith to end entrenchment
Smith, the top fundraiser in the campaign and with the support of a number of young professionals unimpressed by the existing political establishment, has argued that despite Burlingtons virtues, its city-government engine is outmoded.
The era of entrenchment, he wrote in last Sundays Free Press, must come to an end. We are too bogged down in politics as usual, and guided by old grudges and old commitments. As Burlington faces its own challenges, he said, we cannot rely on a 20th-century playbook.
His opponents, Smith said, have been content to tinker with the status-quo have had the chance to address these challenges and they have not. The pension shortfall exceeds our annual budget. Our schools are crumbling and our streets are full of potholes.
Taxpayers, Smith said, are tapped out, and the city must (do) everything possible to encourage investment in our city. ... The status quo is not good enough in these times.
The son of a former Republican congressman, Smith points to his development background as general counsel and vice president of the nonprofit Greater Burlington Industrial Corp. as evidence that he understands how to recruit (green) businesses to our city and help them grow here. He also promises to update the citys Web presence, to improve resident access to government and to cut costs.
Wright: Leadership and council diplomacy
Wright, a Republican, has run a campaign designed to reassure the citys Progressives and Democrats that he would be a safe custodian of their social mores. He points to his election by his Democratic and Progressive colleagues as City Council president the past two years as evidence of his diplomatic skills.
His nonpartisan direction, Wright said, helped end the six-year disarray and complete the rewrite of the zoning ordinance, led the council effort to trim the school districts massive borrowing plan and helped the council find a way to keep the citys two senior centers open for another year.
As mayor, he wrote for the Free Press, I will provide the leadership that has been missing on issue after issue moving the Southern Connector along; creating an updated plan for the entire waterfront; creating more senior housing and encouraging the colleges to house more students on campus to free neighborhood houses for nonstudents. Those issues and making government more open and transparent and delivering services as efficiently as possible, he wrote, will be among the priorities of a Wright administration.
With at least five new city councilors to take office in April and the loss of a half-century of experience on the council, Wright said, we need a mayor who can work together with the new council. I think thats the biggest difference in this race.
Montroll: Change the pension system
Montroll, a former City Council president and current Board of Finance member, promises to use his experience to help Burlington grow and expand while holding fast to the citys values.
His candidacy may have been helped by a challenge last month by the mayors chief administrative officer, Jonathan Leopold. Leopold said Montroll was guilty of a conflict of interest for doing legal work for the White River Junction-based telecommunications company Valley Net while simultaneously sitting on the Board of Finance with access to Burlington Telecoms confidential marketing strategies. He said Montroll hadnt disclosed his work for Valley Net.
Montroll responded furiously. He had disclosed the relationship nearly a year ago to Leopold, he said. Leopold acknowledged that conversation but said he hadnt understood Montrolls work for Valley Net would be ongoing.
Knodell, the outgoing Progressive city councilor from Ward 2, said the public argument helped Montroll. It came across to the public, she said, as, there they (the Progressives) go, beating up on people again.
Kiss, Montroll wrote in his My Turn piece in the Free Press, hasnt been up to the job of mayor: I do not feel the current administration has provided the leadership necessary to create and maintain sound financial policies for our city.
Montroll has taken perhaps the boldest position of the candidates and courted union opposition by targeting one portion of the citys finances the pension system.
He has said the current defined benefit Social Security-like pension plan is unaffordable in the long run. New employees, he argues, should have a 401(k)-like plan.
We cannot rely on the stock market to balance our citys budget, he said, noting that the city must make up a $60 million underfunding of the pension fund. We cannot continue to take that risk and ask the taxpayers to take that risk with us. ... The status-quo, he said, is simply unacceptable.
The other candidates have dismissed Montrolls approach to the pension, arguing that it wouldnt relieve the city of its pension obligation to current employees. And a conversion of the pension to a 401(k), they say, would make it hard to attract and retain good employees.
Andys plan, Kiss said, is more pandering to voters and their concerns than it is to meet their needs.
Steady Turnout in Burlington; Voters like IRV
Burlington, Vermont - March 3, 2009
Late this morning, poll officials in Burlington reported a medium to heavy turnout.
There is a five-way race for mayor in the city. Political experts predict that none of the mayoral candidates will win a majority of the votes on the first ballot count, so the city's instant runoff voting system will have to be used. Under that system, the voters' second, third, fourth and fifth choices for mayor are counted until one candidate wins a majority and is declared the winner.
Voters we spoke with today indicated they like the IRV system.
"I thought it's pretty good," Lisa Zdzarski said. "It was easy to understand. I watched the news last night so I knew what I was gonna be in for."
"I like it," agreed Marianne Burke. "I think it makes the whole election less contentious because you know, people I think want that second vote after your first one. On the other hand, I don't know exactly if I understand it."
"I have to admit I wasn't too keen on it when I first did it," Donald Lafountaine said. "But this year I'm kind of excited about it because the race is so close, there's so many good candidates, I'm warmed up to it."
"I think it's good," Parm Padgett said. "I think this is going put it to the test this year because I feel like it's gonna go to instant runoff voting."
Several voters told us they might not support instant runoff voting in the future if the mayoral candidate with the most votes after the first ballot count ends up losing after the second, third and fourth choices are totaled.
Brian Joyce - WCAX News
My Turn: City voters fortunate to have IRV
By Vee Gordon March 2, 2009, Burlington Free Press
The upcoming election of a mayor in Burlington offers a stellar example of the value of instant runoff voting (IRV). With five candidates on the ballot, Burlington voters have a wide choice. Under plurality election rules common in the United States, having so many viable candidates is likely to generate a spoiler dynamic. That is where similar candidates, splitting the majority, might allow a candidate not favored by a majority of the voters to win with less than 50 percent.
Many jurisdictions use runoff elections to avoid the spoiler problem and defend majority rule. But Burlington uses an even better method, also recently adopted by San Francisco, Minneapolis and Memphis, that avoids the cost and often lower voter turnout of traditional runoff elections. That better method is instant runoff voting. The League of Women Voters of Vermont has been advocating for IRV statewide for the past decade.
With IRV, Burlington voters are allowed to rank as many candidates as they wish in order of preference. If no candidate is the first choice of a majority (over 50 percent), the candidate with the fewest votes is declared defeated and voters who supported an eliminated candidate then have their ballots counted for their next choice among the remaining candidates. This process continues until there are only two candidates in the running. In the final runoff round, the finalist preferred by the majority is elected. IRV thus simulates a series of runoff elections, but with a single election.
Many people, however, are accustomed to the notion that the candidate with the highest initial vote count ought to win. When there are only two candidates the winner, by definition, has a majority of the votes. But in a multi-candidate race, with any runoff system, the leader with the most votes in the first round is not necessarily the rightful winner. The race isnt over yet. Only after the field of candidates has been reduced to two finalists can it be determined which is the most preferred choice.
In Burlingtons 2006 mayoral race the ultimate winner of the instant runoff happened to be the leader in the first round as well, so the issue of a come from behind victory did not arise. With five candidates in 2009, the top vote getter in the first round could mathematically have just 21 percent support, while the absolute majority of 79 percent agree that they do not want that candidate. It is natural for supporters of a losing candidate, who had a lead in the first round, to try and blame the voting method, rather than accepting the reality that between the two finalists, more voters preferred the other candidate.
Vermont has a long history of requiring majority winners. Settling for mere plurality winners is a relatively recent compromise to avoid repeated voting. For most of Vermonts history, when no candidate topped 50 percent for most offices, rather than giving the seat to the plurality leader, repeated votes were held until some candidate won an absolute majority. Although most people are unaware of this, that is still the state law for local elections in Vermont conducted at town meeting. Section 2660 of Title 17 of state law requires majority winners at town meeting. With repeated voting, the candidates with the fewest votes are dropped one at a time until some candidate achieves a majority which is how Burlingtons IRV law works.
In the recent election of the new Republican National Committee chairman, in a field of five candidates, Michael Steele was in second place behind Mike Duncan in the first round. But rather than declaring the top vote getter elected, the Republican Party requires a majority winner. As candidates dropped out one at a time in subsequent rounds, Steele came from behind to win with a majority. IRV accomplishes the same thing, but without the cost or lower voter turnout typical of public runoff elections.
As a final note, I would like to observe that John McCain, Howard Dean and President Barack Obama have championed instant runoff voting. Perhaps its time to take IRV national.
Vee Gordon of Essex Junction is legislative chairwoman of the League of Women Voters of Vermont.
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