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IRV Repeal Signed into Law 

Published April 26, 2010 at 12:18 p.m.

Before about a dozen onlookers, Gov. Jim Douglas signed into law Saturday a charter change that eliminates the use of instant-runoff voting to elect Burlington's mayor.

"I'm signing this today for two reasons: One, to respect the decision of the people of Burlington, and two on the substance of the issue," said Douglas, who reminded onlookers that he was Secretary of State for 12 years.

"Voting ought to be transparent and easy to understand, and affects the will of the voters in a direct way," said Douglas. "I'm glad the city has agreed to a more traditional process."

Though it wasn't on his official public schedule, Douglas agreed to make a detour Saturday at the request of Rep. Kurt Wright (R-Burlington). Wright is also a city councilor.

The signing took place in front of the The Robert Miller Community & Recreation Center on Gosse Court in Burlington's New North End.

Wright, and a group led largely by New North End residents, successfully put a repeal of IRV on the March ballot. Voters agreed to repeal IRV by a 52-48 margin.

"This group may have been outspent, but they had heart," said Wright, in reference to IRV proponents who raised money from groups outside of Burlington, including FairVote and the Vermont Public Interest Research Group.

Joining Wright and the governor were: City Councilor Vince Dober (R-Ward 7), David Hartnett and Democrats Sandy Baird, Jane and John Ewing and State Sen. Hinda Miller (D-Chittenden).

The signing pen went to Harnett, who helped to organize the IRV repeal effort.

"We were outspent, but we certainly weren't outworked," said Hartnett, who sent out thanks to Lea Terhune, Chuck Seleen and Linda Chagnon who weren't able to make the signing ceremony but whom Harnett said were instrumental in getting the measure passed.

"I feel a lot better now that IRV won't play a role in 2012," said Harnett. That's the next time a mayoral election will be held in Burlington.

The results of the 2009 election sparked an outcry that IRV had somehow robbed Wright of the mayor's office. Wright led incumbent Progressive Bob Kiss through the first several rounds of voting, but eventually Kiss accumulated enough second-place votes to best Wright.

The IRV repeal effort seemed stagnant until news of Burlington Telecom's financial troubles went public in the fall. Then, it seemed to gather steam and by March the anti-Kiss sentiment appeared to crest and the vote in March was seen as both a referendum on the voting system itself, as well as one on Kiss and his administration.

Overall, IRV lost by a 52-48 margin, but it was defeated resoundingly in the New North End Wards 4 and 7, and barely survived in Ward 6. Support was strong in the other four wards, but turnout there was much lower.

Here's how the IRV vote broke down by ward:

Ward 1: 405 to keep, 264 to repeal

Ward 2: 428 to keep, 185 to repeal

Ward 3: 510 to keep, 292 to repeal

Ward 4: 1203 to repeal, 606 to keep

Ward 5: 793 to keep, 545 to repeal

Ward 6: 490 to keep, 477 to repeal

Ward 7: 1006 to repeal, 437 to keep

The rejection of IRV, coupled with the defeat of several Progressive candidates and one Democratic ally of Kiss, led one city councilor to call for Kiss to resign.

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About The Author

Shay Totten

Shay Totten

Shay Totten wrote "Fair Game," a weekly political column, from April 2008-December 2011.

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