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Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) passes Vermont Senate

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Bill would implement new voting method for congressional races

MONTPELIER, VT - By a vote of 16 to 12, the Vermont State Senate today approved a bill to implement a new voting method, instant runoff voting (IRV). IRV will only be used in U.S. House and U.S. Senate races. In 2008, IRV would only apply to the House race.

IRV is a majority voting system that does everything a traditional runoff system does to ensure the winner of an election has popular support – but in 1 election rather than 2. IRV combines the 1st and 2nd rounds of a runoff into one efficient election by enabling voters to rank candidates in order of preference. If there is no majority winner, then an instant runoff will be conducted. Only the top two vote getters will advance.

The instant runoff will be conducted at regional voting centers, supervised by the Secretary of State, in consultation with town clerks and boards of civil authority.

The benefits of IRV include
* Elects majority winners, which protects democracy and reflects the values of Vermont's constitutional framers

* Keeps "spoiler candidates" from undercutting the principle of majority rule.

* Rewards candidates who focus on issues

* Compared to traditional runoffs, saves taxpayer dollars used to hold two polling days, avoids low turnout runoff elections, and eases the burdens on election officials

IRV is easy for voters. They can mark their ballots just as they always have in the past and can choose to pick only one candidate or rank up to 5. If no candidate wins a majority of first choices, the top 2 candidates advance to an instant runoff. If a voter's first choice is eliminated, the ballot is counted for that voter's next top choice.

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Ranking alternate candidates is easy. In their 1st IRV mayoral election, 99.9% of Burlington voters cast a valid ballot. IRV was well understood across all demographic groups.

According to Catherine Rader of the Vermont League of Women Voters, "People want high-turnout, spoiler-free elections where the majority wins. Interest in instant runoff voting is growing rapidly."

IRV is a majority voting system that does everything a traditional runoff system does to ensure the winner of an election has popular support – but in 1 election rather than 2. IRV combines the 1st and 2nd rounds of a runoff into one efficient election by enabling voters to rank candidates in order of preference.

IRV has become a popular election reform around the country in recent years. It is used for local elections in San Francisco and Burlington (VT) and for overseas military voters in South Carolina, Arkansas and Louisiana. Minneapolis, Oakland and a number of cities and counties in North Carolina are all in the process of implementing IRV for use in the next few years.

Eyes now turn to the Vermont House, as well as to Governor Jim Douglas who, in 2005, signed into law an act to amend the town charter of Burlington to allow the town to use IRV to elect local leaders.
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