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IRV Letters to the Editor 

Published February 24, 2010 at 2:57 p.m.

IRV: Friend, Foe or Something Else?

Double Question

Thank you, Seven Days, for printing the sample ballot for the March election [Classifieds, February 17]; without it, I would have been unprepared and unable to vote on Question #5.

Voters should be prepared for the confusion regarding IRV on the March ballot. Initially, for me, the double question was an unanswerable quandary because, yes, I agree with repealing IRV, and no, I do not support decreasing the percentage of votes "to at least 40%" to determine the winner.

Here it is: "Shall Sec. 5 of the City Charter be amended to eliminate instant run-off voting (IRV) and to decrease the percentage of votes needed to elect mayor from more than 50% majority to at least 40% of the votes?"

The second part of the question is misleading.

It suggests that "40% of the votes" is something new; that we would be lowering our standards to vote in a mayor with only 40 percent of the vote. Not so, we have always had low standards - 40% has always produced a winner! Who knew?

So really, Question #5 is much simpler than it appears. It actually is: Do you think Burlington should return to its historical way of voting?

Apparently, getting IRV repealed is just the first step; changing the 40 percent to 50 percent can be adjusted at a later time, if voters so choose.

Without attending a panel discussion to hear both sides of the debate, and to get clarification of the question, I would have skipped over it. It is that confusing.

Now, after hearing well-presented positions on both sides, I will vote yes on #5, to repeal IRV. After all, do we really want to elect another mayor by manipulating the count? Mayor Kiss only received 29 percent of the votes.

Marianne Ward


50 Percent Test

On March 2, Burlingtonians will choose either to continue Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) for mayor or to return to the (bizarre) 40 percent rule of old. The real question is whether winning means getting at least 50 percent of the votes, or whether winning means getting the most votes, even if it is less than 50 percent.

If you believe that when one candidate gets 15 percent and the other candidates get less, the candidate with 15 percent should win even if the other 85 percent of voters want someone else, then vote against IRV.

If you believe the winner should have at least 50 percent, then vote for IRV. IRV is simple - you rank the candidates 1-2-3, etc. The genius of IRV is that with that simple ranking, the ballot first asks who you want for mayor. If more than 50 percent of the voters choose one candidate, that candidate wins. Then the ballot asks: If no candidate gets 50 percent, and your candidate isn't one of the two vote-getters who go to the runoff, who will you vote for in the runoff? Then it asks: If neither of those candidates is in the runoff, who will you vote for? And it does all this with the simple one-two-three ranking.

IRV ensures at least a 50 percent vote for the winner. It is cheaper and more democratic than an actual runoff, since voter turnout tends to be lower for runoff elections. Fifty percent matters - vote No on Question #5 in Burlington on March 2.

Bram Kleppner


IRV: Wright or Wrong?

A stranger showed up at my door a few weekends ago. She was collecting signatures for a referendum against Burlington's Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) used in the last mayoral election.

Despite my best attempts to shoo her away, the women seemed compelled to say her piece. She was extremely careful to never, ever name names, as if she'd been trained not to. But it turns out that the biggest issue the IRVings have with instant runoff voting is that they had voted for "he-who-must-not-be-named" and he didn't win. Since "he-who-must-not-be-named" got the most votes, the IRV somehow stole the election from him. Therefore, it's important that Burlington rid itself of the IRV system.

Of course, "he-who-must-not-be-named" is none other than Kurt Wright. Despite Ms. IRVing's protests, Kurt Wright never won that election. To win, Kurt needed a majority of the votes. He never got them.

When I pointed this out to the woman standing at my door, she claimed that it was an IRVing principle that the person with the most votes should win.

I wonder if the IRVings believe we should change all Vermont election laws to remove the majority requirement and require a simple plurality. Either would fit nicely into our democratic principles. Requiring a winner to receive the arbitrary 40 percent of the votes to win, though, smacks of some backroom political deal.

I also wonder why this most-votes principle didn't apply to the 2000 presidential election, where the person who did receive the most votes didn't win. Please, IRVings, show us all the work you've been doing since 2000 to uphold this principle. Or does this principle only apply when the candidate's name is Kurt Wright?

Then the woman went on to explain the IRVings' second principle: that it was somehow "unconstitutional" to change the way we vote, and we needed to go back to the old way of voting. If we did so, neither the woman standing in front of me, nor African Americans, nor poor people would have the right to vote.

Actually, we have a long tradition of changing the way we vote in the U.S. to make our democracy fairer, more inclusive, and more efficient.

Personally I like the IRV. I like that I can vote for my second, third and even fourth choices if I like. My number one didn't win last time and I was glad that I was able to impact the subsequent rounds without having to go to the polls one more time. While the IRV may not reward the person with the most "positives," it does reward the person with the fewest "negatives."

Rich Nadworny


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