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December 29, 2009

Burlington Residents Seek Repeal of Instant Runoff Voting

IRVphoto A group of Burlington residents have garnered the necessary 1654 signatures to put a simple question to voters: Should Burlington revert to its old way of electing its mayor?

Instant runoff voting (IRV) — which allows voters to rank candidates as a way to choose a winner on election day rather than holding costly separate runoff elections – was perhaps the most controversial element in a five-way race for mayor in March.

If there is no majority winner (50-plus percent) after all first-place ballots are counted, candidates who statistically can't win are eliminated, and their second-place votes are distributed among the remaining candidates. This process is repeated until someone with 50 percent of the vote emerges.

If IRV is repealed, then the next election for mayor will revert to the old system: A simple plurality (40 percent) wins the day. If no one has 40 percent on election night, then a special runoff between the top two candidates will be held 30 days later.

A multipartisan group calling itself "One Person, One Vote" held a press conference Tuesday afternoon in a City Hall conference room to declare that IRV was a convoluted system that frustrated voters and may have depressed voter turnout.

"I was an early supporter of IRV," said Democrat John Ewing. "But I've been disappointed in the way it has worked. I think it has proven itself to be a disservice to the voters. I think it's extremely convoluted and that voters don't understand how it works."

If that's true, it would be a slight turnaround from a poll conducted in 2006 — the first year IRV was used in Burlington to elect a mayor.

In 2006, a University of Vermont professor and his students polled Burlingtonians about their understanding of IRV and found that 63.4 percent of voters said they liked IRV, while 17.9 percent disliked it and 18.7 percent did not have an opinion or didn’t know whether they liked it. Those with a postgraduate degree liked IRV more than those with a high school diploma or less. Only about 8 percent of those polled found the system confusing.

Several of the IRV opponents, including Ewing, backed Republican Kurt Wright for mayor this past March. Another Wright supporter, David Hartnett, also collected signatures for the group and said this was more than a sour grapes campaign.

"This has been a grassroots effort," noted Hartnett. "We waited to bring in the signatures because we didn't want this to be about Kurt Wright losing after being ahead, or Andy Montroll who had more first and second place votes and didn't win. We wanted this to be about IRV. In fact, I don't think a lot of people understood what they were voting for in 2005 when they approved it."

Hartnett and other IRV opponents said after two mayoral elections it was time for voters to weigh in — again — on whether the voting system was working.

"There was a lot on the ballot that year, and IRV got kinda lost in the shuffle," said Hartnett. "In the next two and a half months there will be time to focus on IRV."

Hartnett and others said that, while the lion's share of early grassroots energy this year emanated from the New North End, petitioners come from throughout the city and represent all major political parties in the Queen City.

Also joining Hartnett and Ewing at Tuesday's event was Sam Osborne, a prominent Burlington Democrat, Chuck Saleen, a New North End Democrat, and Linda Chagnon of the New North End. Chagnon alone netted roughly 500 signatures.

Ewing and other IRV opponents said the system has done nothing to increase voter turnout. In fact, only 27 percent of registered voters turned up at the polls in March 2009, which seems pretty dismal.

That can be compared with a voter turnout of slightly more than 30 percent in 2006. That said, 2009 had a better turnout than 2003 (22.3 percent) and 2001 (18.7 percent).

In March 2009, there were five candidates on the ballot, four of whom ran strong campaigns: Progressive Bob Kiss (incumbent), then-Councilor Andy Montroll (Democrat), James Simpson (Green Party), Independent Dan Smith and then-Councilor Wright.

Here's how the vote broke down on election night: In the first round, Wright had 2951 (33%) votes to Kiss' 2585 (29%) and Montroll's 2063 (23%).

In the second round, Wright had 3294 (37%) to Kiss' 2981 (34%) and Montroll's 2554 (29%) after Smith's and Simpson's votes were eliminated and their voters' second preferences divvied up among the other three candidates.

In the final round, Montroll was eliminated and 1332 of his preferences went to Kiss, while 767 went to Wright. That put Kiss on top with 4313 (51.5%) and Wright with 4061 (48%).

Hence the inspiration behind this T-shirt, which offered a new definition of IRV: “Keep Counting ’Til Bob Wins.”

In 2006, it also took Kiss more than one round to win a majority of votes, but he was in the lead in both rounds against his closest challenger — Democrat Hinda Miller.

This year, however, the margin was close enough that Wright asked for a recount. Wright called off the hand recount as soon as it was clear that it was not differing from the election night results.

Here was my take in a "Fair Game" column shortly after the election, after some fumed that Wright had the election stolen from him. I mean, really, who would have thought a left-leaning, liberal city would pass on putting a Republican in the mayor's office? Incroyable!

IRV proponents noted at the time, and will undoubtedly note again in the coming months, that IRV worked as it was designed.

They said the ranking system saves time and money by allowing voters to rank their candidates and take care of the runoff the same night. Also, fewer voters actually take part in separate runoff elections.

But that doesn't stop folks from claiming hell froze over last March. Vermont GOP Chairman Rob Roper called Kiss' reelection a "travesty" and claimed the "will of the voters was circumvented."

Was it true? I decided to look more closely at how the votes broke down, and here's what I found:

  • • Two-thirds of the voters didn’t have the smarts to put Wright down as their first pick.

  • • Five out of seven wards ranked Wright behind Kiss and Montroll.

  • • Kiss was in the lead, claiming the most first-place votes in only six of seven wards, before Ward 7 voters pushed Wright out front.

  • • Wright had 33 percent after the first round, 37 percent after round two. To Wright supporters, that seemed close enough to 50 percent, right?
  • As I noted in my column at the time, I'm not sure how anyone's "will" was circumvented when you look more closely.
  • People may not be happy that Kiss was reelected, and certainly at today's press conference the word "leadership" was tossed around a lot — mostly in a negative sense. As in, Kiss offers none.

    Look, it's no secret that Wards 4 and 7 are more conservative than other parts of the city and that they were going to go overwhelmingly for Wright. And they did.

    The question for March 2010, however, is how much of the anti-IRV effort is truly a referendum on IRV, and how much is a referendum on Mayor Kiss. His term isn't up, technically, until 2012, but a spate of leadership crises related to Burlington Telecom, the Moran Plant redevelopment and the loss of General Dynamics practically put Kiss in the lame duck category. And to think it's only the guy's first year of a three-year term.

    Sounds like IRV could soon find itself another fossilized relic that anthropologists hundreds of years from now use to define what could be dubbed Burlington's Progressazoic Era.

    This is absurd. To imagine, that the next great democratic reform in Burlington would be... a return to single vote plurality?! How small can one possibly think?!

    Personally I'm in favor of direct electronic democracy, perhaps with transferable proxies. Why allow any one person to make our decisions for us?

    But returning to the realm of the supposedly thinkable: Even though I'm a strong supporter of Mayor Kiss, I would happily endorse a proposal to allow immediate recall elections by petition. That would at least make it clear that our government continues to serve only at the pleasure of the people.

    Hartnett, Wright, and Decelles are the lunatics behind this petition drive. They are cry babies and upset that Kurt didn't win last March. IRV or no IRV, Burlington will not have a GOP mayor for a very long time.

    Mr Wright was not the choice of the people when asked to rank candidates as this video shows:

    "I was an early supporter of IRV," said Democrat John Ewing. "But I've been disappointed in the way it has worked. I think it has proven itself to be a disservice to the voters."

    Right, it didn't work out because your candidate didn't win. Ewing supported Hinda Miller the first time IRV was used and Montroll last time (He was quoted in Seven Days calling Kiss "a loser". It's not like he's John Q. Public, he has an axe to grind) Kurt Wright said after the election he wouldn't actively work for the overturn of IRV since the voters chose it. Wasn't he taking a clipboard door to door?
    Kiss is not flashy but he's run the city well. With this small-minded group it's politics over people and with Kiss it has never been and will never be that way. I hope that Burlington will truly turn out to be progressive (small p) and reject the overturn of IRV. It will be a repudiation of the petty politics that continues to play out in city politics, particularly the Burlington City Council and will embrace substance over style.

    I'll vote to go back to the old way. It worked fine. Sanders won in 1981 with a 10 vote plurality and a lot of people think he was a pretty good mayor. And I defy anyone to tell me the last time there was a mayoral runoff election in Burlington.

    In IRV computer cards and ballots have to be transported to a central location for tabulation. I don't like that. It increases the risk of shenanigans. Voting to go back to the old way is also a vote to have votes counted at the polling places where they were cast. Better.

    Killing IRV will eventually be seen as the only useful thing that Kiss did during his tenure.

    "Kiss is not flashy but he's run the city well."

    Are you insane? You only got half that statement right. He has absolutely no clue where he is, what he's doing (or not doing), and what's going on around him. Leopold runs the City and he ended up breaking the law in a scandalous secret scheme to fund BT with taxpayer money.

    Remember Webber and everybody else- this is not a referendum on Kiss, it's a referendum on IRV. I really like Kiss (although I'm finding it harder and harder to ignore the fact he keeps Leopold employed) but I don't favor IRV.

    Kiss is not IRV and IRV is not Kiss. IRV is a voting system. Kiss is the mayor. Different.

    I was responding to the poster's specific comment.

    Moreover, I think it IS a referendum on Kiss, to some extent. We wouldn't have Kiss if it weren't for IRV. Mr. Nobody wouldn't have won in a regular election.

    "We wouldn't have Kiss if it weren't for IRV"

    Only one percentage point makes that argument plausible, as Kiss received 39% in the first round of IRV in 2006. One more point and he would have won outright in the old system. Who might have won in a 2 way runoff between Kiss and Miller in 2006 is a debatable question, but the fact remains, Kiss won the instant runoff because Kevin Curley's supporters preferred Bob Kiss, as did Curley himself.

    By definition we don't know who would have won under the old system. But it's a safe bet that if he hadn't won, we wouldn't be staring down an additional $17m in property taxes. Not very "progressive" if you ask me.

    Yes, he has run the city well. when this is over, the slack jaws won't be any happier but the truth will be shown that BT was and is viable, that there was no choice to use the cash pool and that the taxpayers were saved money. BT will become the success that it always promised it would be. It's intellectually dishonest to use the world economic crisis to bring down a mayor. He didn't invent BT and he didn't cause the crisis. If you want to remove Progressives, get off your ass and find a smart and honest candidate. Don't blame IRV, which Kiss didn't invent either. The voters preferred kiss because he's honest and progressive. The voting system didn't deliver him. So get a candidate and do the work to get elected instead of running buffoons and then complaining because they didn't win.

    IRV shouldn't be overturned and it won't be. Burlington is a Progressive city and will remain so.

    @ "webber": First of all, jerk, stop using someone else's name.

    Second, you Prog-defenders keep missing the point entirely (and I think intentionally). The issue is not whether BT is a good idea or not. Nor is the issue whether Mayor Leopold and his lackie Kiss should have used the cash pool to save BT. The issue is the dishonest way they did it, and their dishonest cover-up later. They could have honestly come to the Council (even in Executive Session) and said, BT won't survive without a temporary infusion form the cash pool, please authorize it. If BT absolutely, positively couldn't be saved except by illegal, dishonest acts, then maybe it shoudn't have been saved.

    The unauthorized dipping into the cash pool was ILLEGAL. Period.

    The ends don't justify the means. Even for Progs.

    "Burlington is a Progressive city and will remain so."

    Going down with the ship, that's admirable in some small way!

    "The voters preferred kiss because he's honest" - fake Webber, December 2009

    "Taxpayer money is not at risk" - Bob Kiss, November 2009

    As an experienced blogger, I've realized that the time stamp on a comment may suggest more information than the time per se. Note for example that 'progressivecity's' pro IRV comment was left only four minutes after the preceding comment by the second "Webber," which was also pro IRV. That's the shortest amount of time separating any of the comments in this string, even those where the first Webber and I were speaking back and forth. It is my strong hunch that both comments were authored by the same person in an amateur attempt to "AstroTurf" (or create a false impression of grass-roots support) for IRV.

    I encourage people to read up on what we will vote on. There's more information on IRV than anyone probably wants at Wikipedia:

    Also this is an interesting quote fromthis page:

    "Unlike Burlington's first IRV mayoral election in 2006, the IRV winner in 2009 (Bob Kiss) was neither the same as the plurality winner (Kurt Wright) nor Condorcet winner (Andy Montroll)."

    Interesting. Bummer for Dan Smith though. He wasn't any kind of winner last year- but he did spend the most money on his campaign. So there's that.

    Yeah. I'm not really into IRV for Burlington. I don't like the votes driven around town, and I don't necessarily like Terry Boricious counting those votes for us.

    Plus- I like "the spoiler effect." I'm a big fan of the spoiler effect. Dick Bove "spoiled" Pauquette's reelection in 1981, and that seemed to work out. A lot of people would say Ross Perot was a spoiler in the presidential election of 1992, and the plurality winner in that race could be said to have done an ok job in office too.

    So the spoiler effect, the mechanics of vote tabulation, my annoyance with the spurious argument of cost savings and the fact that a simpler system instills a greater perception of legitimacy- these are some of my reasons why I plan on voting to go back to the old system.

    Well said, and I share your views on IRV.

    My fear is that if Markowitz is elected Governor the use of IRV will expand. She's on record as saying she would like to see it go statewide.

    -the real Webber

    This is not a referendum on Kiss or a referendum on Instant Runoffs. It's a referendum on the principle of majority rule. Haik suggests he likes spoilers - that is, it was healthy for Ralph Nader's candidacy to split the majority vote in Florida and allow George Bush to become president. I don't think so. That was undemocratic.

    Does Burlington really want mayoral candidates winning with 40% plus one who never could get 50% plus one?

    "Does Burlington really want mayoral candidates winning with 40% plus one who never could get 50% plus one?"

    Isn't that the system we had up until 2006? Somehow, the City survived for over 200 years. And prospered. There were no revolutions claiming that the Mayor wasn't legitimately elected.

    Moreover, I'll respond to your question with a question: Does Burlington really want a convoluted system that allows a nobody like Kiss -- a guy who was nobody's first choice and who didn't even get a plurality until the third round of counting -- to get in? A system that causes a good portion of the electorate to question the very legitimacy of the election? Doesn't Burlington deserve better than that?

    So, I answer your question with a resounding, "yes."

    The IRV system was invented to keep Progs in power even when their candidate was too weak to get elected in a traditional one-person, one-vote election. Period.

    Webber - Bob Kiss won the most first choices in 2006 and narrowly trailed Kurt Wright in first choices in 2006, so you are factually wrong about him being "nobody's first choice." That's not to defend the guy - but trying to get rid of Instant Runoffs is classic misdirection of energy. The fact is, Kiss would almost certainly have won with the pre-2006 system in both 2006 and 2009 whether you hate him or not.

    But it's not "more legitimate" to have a system that can elect someone who is nearly 60% of people's LAST choice. You should have more confidence in your candidates and believe they can secure 50% plus one - heck, even Wright came pretty close.

    "The fact is, Kiss would almost certainly have won with the pre-2006 system in both 2006 and 2009 whether you hate him or not."


    No, in fact, we will never know whether Mr. Nobody could have won a fair and square election. MAYBE in 2006, but I seriously doubt it in 2009. And that's because of the dynamic of REAL runoffs: they're different elections from the primaries. The plurality winner in the primary might not win in the runoff. Real runoffs are different from the "hypothetical" (i.e, fake) runoffs that the IRV system indulges in. Real runoffs are a separate election. With different dynamics. And that's good for democracy.

    IRV merely "manufactures" a majority for the winner. That is not better than accepting the plurality winner under the old system. As I said, that system worked for 200 years and no one revolted.

    The old system worked. The "new" system is not better, but worse.

    This is not a referendum on Mayor Kiss! This is a REERENDUM ON IRV! For the last three years on each and every election day folks have shown mounting frustration with IRV. It seemed only prudent to respond and initiate a petition drive to allow ALL city voters to voice their opinions. Haik you are correct Burlington has never had a run-off for the office of Mayor. And please lets be honest about the claim of “cost” as an argument to keep IRV. This last March in the run-off for the W-7 council seat the expense to tax payers was around $1,500. It seems logical that the investment of around $10,000 to elect the person who will lead us for the next three years should be made.

    We all make mistakes. it is now time for the people that voted for IRV in the first place to correct themselves and now vote to repeal IRV in March. If they do that their mistake will be forgiven.
    In closing I would hope the supporters of IRV as a cost saver would not be happy with the !7 million now being bounced around like a pingpong ball for Burl. telecom.

    Lets remember that under the "old" system, many voters who went for Dan Smith or Andy Montroll would have had to consider whether their votes would have caused Kurt Wright to have won. In that scenario many of them would not have (of course some would have) stayed with their "first choice", but unstead would have voted for Bob over Kurt.

    This is one of many reasons why comparing who got how many first plus second votes etc. does not work (nor is it supposed to work) when using IRV.

    IRV is what allowed Andy to get 27% (and I might add that had he been Mayor and a Progressive were running for the seat the same, but reverse would have occured. In the old system, many would have voted for Andy because they would have prefered him over Kurt, with IRV that would have allowed the Progressives supporters to vote for him/her and then Andy as their second choice).

    The other argument that a run-off saves or does not save money is moot. The reality is that far far fewer voters vote in a run-off. Sadly it takes a lot of effort by campaigns even to get many people out to vote. The candidate that wins a run-off election often (as happened in ward 7 last time) gets fewer votes to win than they did as a second place candidate in the initial election...thats crazy! It then comes down to which candidate gets more people to go out to the polls a second time, it has far less to do with what the overall support actually is. comment above indicates there were not Mayoral run-offs in the past. only needed 59% to vote against you and you could still win with 41%. Great system! If it were a 50% or run-off scenario then there would have been plenty of run-offs.

    I hope (and think) that Burlington voters will see this as what it is. A step backwards. Lets continue to support the idea of having a majority winner. Then lets debate whether an instant run-off or a delayed run-off is better.

    So let's say that IRV is put on the ballot as a referendum and neither "Yes" nor "No" gets 50% of the vote? What happens then?

    Perhaps people should get to rank their votes ...

    "The reality is that far far fewer voters vote in a run-off."

    Yeah, just the ones who actually care and aren't just there to vote on other issues and seats. That's one of the problems with IRV, people put far less thought into a "third place" vote than their "first place" vote (ie., THEIR VOTE FOR MAYOR), but those can actually be the deciding votes.

    If anyone doubts that IRV benefits the Progs, look no further than the wailing and gnashing of teeth that will come out of what's left of their party over this vote as it draws near.

    It then comes down to which candidate gets more people to go out to the polls a second time, it has far less to do with what the overall support actually is.

    Dave I don't see any effective difference between the ability to get people to the polls, and "overall support." Whether it's on election day itself or on the day of the runoff afterward, the support of a candidate is determined by how many people he can get to come vote for him.

    And it isn't crazy that someone might win a runoff with fewer votes than he received in the first round. Sure runoffs have lower turnout. There's less hype and probably a lot fewer races to be decided in a runoff- but a real runoff where people actually have to haul their asses back to the polls to support their candidate measures the depth of a candidates "overall" support, not simply its bredth like we measure with IRV.

    Anyone is free to back to the polls for the runoff. I say more power (literally) to those who bother to do so. Real democracy does require a little personal efficacy.

    And I don't really care if someone who might like to vote for Smith or Montroll has to worry about whether their vote might throw the election to Wright. Elections are about hard choices. There is no perfect system. As we saw from the last election- Andy was the Condorcet winner which means that theoretically he would have won a 2-way race against any of the other candidates. Is that fair?

    You do realize that it was the plurality system and the spoiler effect that elected Bernard Sanders mayor with 43% of the vote in 1981 and it was the plurality system and the spoiler effect that elected Peter Clavelle mayor with 43% of the vote in 1995, don't you? Should those two elections be seen as anything other than perfectly legitimate simply because 57% of voters cast ballots against each in his respective election? I don't thinks so.

    Imagine a world in which IRV had handed the 1981 election to Gordon Paquette, Bernie Sanders has never since won an election was regardeded in the same light as Peter Diamondstone, and we all had to hope senator Tarrant would do the right thing on health care right now.

    Is that what you would have preferred?

    I say let's go with the "step backwards" if that's what you want to call it. There ain't nuthin' wrong with admitting a mistake and going back to correct it, and I'm grateful for those who collected the signatures (mine among them) that will give us a chance to do so.

    A runoff election is a REAL election.

    An instant runoff is a fake election.

    I prefer real. I prefer democracy.

    Step backwards.

    IRV offers more democracy. Let's keep it.

    this is just an effort to oust Kiss and progressive governmnet. IRV should not be turned back. Burlington voters know better and will vote no.

    First, Thank you Haik for good questions and a real discussion.

    Now in general-

    Some of the discussion comes down to what is democracy? I do not feel it is my place to determine which vote is worth more or less. Whether it be someone who is deeply engaged in the process and candidates or someone who barely pays attention and decides at the last minute on little research. Regardless of their interest, knowledge or commitment, we have a system where there is one person one vote. There are those that will argue that IRV violates that. Unfortunately for those people, courts have clearly ruled that it does not. The reason is that in each round (whether instant or a month later) each person only has one vote. For those that advocate for the condorcet method of tabulation, that method clearly violates one person one vote.

    Also, to the condorcet method, if people voting in this last election understood that their second and third etc. votes would be counted in that manner it might have changed their voting because how the votes are counted can have that impact.

    For instance...there are many people that might have voted for Bob Kiss first and Andy Montroll second. If that is the case, and they knew their second place vote would somehow undermine their first choice then they might not have put Andy or anyone else second.

    There are other voting systems as well. They all have pro's and con's with respect to their complexity and accuracy. No system is perfect. What I find very interesting with respect to the opposition to IRV is that it is the most similar to a regular majority system. It simply reduces the redundancy and increases participation in the run-off rounds.

    As for the examples of those that have won in the past with less than 50%, I have not argued that was a good thing. I am certainly pleased in some instances and displeased in others (There are examples of all political persuasions benefiting from "spoilers"). In some cases if there had been a run-off the result would have been different in others it would have remained the same (which is all conjecture because we can not truly know).

    What I support is more viable candidates (which IRV encourages) and more issues (which usually follows from more viable candidates) being discussed. I also support the idea of the ultimate winner obtaining a majority of the votes (in whatever round).

    IRV also informs the elected individual, as well as the other candidates and the voters as a whole, which ideologies and methodologies are preferred (with respect to the candidates). This helps in the short term and in the long run as candidates can learn from the results with regards to what mattered to the voters in that election.

    @ fake "webber" and fake "jimmy":

    Cut the shit. It's not funny. It's not cute. It's amateurish and pathetic.

    This site gives you the opportunity to express your views under a psuedonym if you want to. Feel free to do so as often as you like. But you do not have the right to use other people's names. Now cut it.

    Your 9:11 comment is also foolish. Getting rid of IRV will not "oust" Kiss, retard.

    Hopefully the voters will see through this "non-partisan" sham and vote to keep IRV. You can't just whine when your candidate doesn't win.

    @ fake "webber":

    Apparently, you haven't bothered to read this site's blog commenting policy, so I'll tell you what it says:

    "You agree not to post material that:

    *impersonates or attempts to assume the identity of any other person or entity . . .

    *is false, deceptive, misleading, deceitful, misinformative . . ."

    Cathy will recognize that your e-mail address isn't mine, dipshit.

    You're a credit to the Progs.

    "Burlington voters know better and will vote no."

    If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. I'm sure that's a phrase you're familiar with, fake Jimmy. The minute they got the last signature on that petition was the official time of death for IRV in Burlington.

    And thanks to your pals Kiss and Leopold for helping out so much with the repeal effort. Prolly couldna done it without em.

    "candidates can learn from the results with regards to what mattered to the voters in that election."

    Give me an example of what Kiss learned from getting the third most "first choice" votes, Zuckerman.

    In an election with more than two parties, the plurality voting system is fundamentally flawed (tactical voting, Duverger's law, wasted votes, spoilers, disproportionate influence of smaller parties, etc.). Over the years, the people of Burlington have clearly indicated they want more than two parties. This means we need a voting system that works with multiple parties. While not perfect, IRV is much better suited for a city like Burlington with multiple parties than plurality voting. If you vote "yes" to get rid of IRV you're really voting for Burlington to be a two-party city. Should we get rid of the Democrats, the Progressives, or the Republicans? If you vote "no" to save IRV you're really voting to keep Burlington a multi-party city. I have no particular party affiliation, but I'll be voting "no" so that we can keep all three parties here in Burlington while still respecting the will of the voters.

    That analysis is flawed. Progs and Independents seem to have gotten elected to the Mayor's office and City Council BEFORE the introduction of IRV, yet ONLY Progs have been elected to the Mayor's office SINCE the introduction of IRV. Indeed, from 1980 to 2006 (the year IRV was first used), Burlington has only had 2 years when a Prog didn't control the Mayor's office! (Bernie called himself an Independent, but he was a Prog.) That's 14 years, folks, without IRV!

    Conclusion: IRV is absolutely NOT necessary to have successful, socially-accepted elections with third-party candidates. It's just a scheme by Progs to continue to hold power when they felt their time had run out.


    Under the "old" system most of the elections did not have a credible strong "third" candidate. Once the incumbent was in (whether Bernie or Peter) they were able to stay in office in part because the voting system made it so many people discouraged a strong Dem campaign. In those situations many people were either discouraged from running or voters were discouraged from voting for the D (by their friends/allies/whoever) because of the fear of electing the Republican.

    So while I am a Progressive and it probably suited us better to have the power of incumbency, the system was not as good for Democracy.

    I happen to think that regardless of Party or level of power, it is better to have a system that encourages voting for one's first choice rather than strategic voting.

    As for "jimmy", Bob did not get the third most first place votes. He was second. Facts matter. Many would argue that in fact this system shows how vote splitting does occur and that a system such as IRV allows for voter choice without the lesser overall supported candidate winning.

    It is quite clear that between voters supporting Andy, Dan and Bob that Kurt was not supported with any depth beyond his initial core support of about 35%. Whereas Bob (or Andy for that matter) had broader support. Certainly Kurt ended up just above does that mean he should be Mayor? no...because he only got above 40% when there were two candidates left (I.E. the other one...Bob...had well more than he).

    I do think that voters like Bradley will prevail. Those of us who tend to be more partisan forget that the vast majority of voters could care less about Party and vote for individuals. The idea of more choices (the American dream right) is one that most people like. IRV is easy to understand. There is a small active group of people who are vehemently opposed and they are going to try to repeal it. That too is Democracy. Lets see what happens.

    As for impersonations...if you are writing under a ficticious name then live the consequences. Put your real name up and then you can complain about others using the same name. (And, I might add, it is not me...I am proud enough of my words and am willing to defend I put my real name)

    A little fact checking-

    Sean: "That's 14 years, folks, without IRV!" Actually it's 24 years.

    David:"IRV allows for voter choice without the lesser overall supported candidate winning"

    As the Condorcet winner, Andy had the greater overall support and he lost. Bob had the lessor overall support and he won.

    David:"Under the "old" system most of the elections did not have a credible strong "third" candidate."

    The fact is most of those elections didn't even have a credible second party candidate. Who are we kidding? And I would again have to point to 1995 when Clavelle was not the incumbent, and there were three credible candidates in the race.

    David: "It is quite clear that between voters supporting Andy, Dan and Bob that Kurt was not supported with any depth beyond his initial core support of about 35%. Whereas Bob (or Andy for that matter) had broader support. Certainly Kurt ended up just above 40%..."

    You are conflating breadth and depth. IRV measures breadth of support. Not so much depth like a real runoff. And in the end Bob and Kurt each had around 50%. Bob just over. Kurt just under. Kurt did not end up "just above 40%," he ended up just under 50%.

    One other thing I'd like to add to this discussion pertains to the one person-one vote concept.

    While it is true that under IRV, each person has only one effective vote, it is also true that if in the first round I vote for one of the eventual top two round 1 vote getters, I am forced to vote for that same candidate again in each runoff round, whereas someone who votes for one of the round 1 losers gets to "come back" to the theoretical "runoff" election and choose somebody else.

    Let me put it another way- I voted for Bob as my first choice last year. That means in the final runoff, I voted for Bob again over Kurt. In a real live runoff, I would have been able to change my mind and vote for Kurt.

    And the second and third place choices of those who voted for losers are looked at, where my second and third place choices never are.

    It's hard to separate legitimacy from the perception of legitimacy. Perceived legitimacy matters in elections. Even if IRV really might be fairer system (despite the flawed and dangerous mechanics of having to transport ballots for counting) it has to be perceived as a fairer system for that to matter, and the fact is a lot of people just don't understand it. Most people don't know the definition of the word "plurality." Most people equate "most votes" with "majority." And most people feel intuitively that the person with the most votes should win.

    You know- Screw IRV! It's a complication and a headache that nobody needs. Everything was fine before. I think the city will vote to go back to the old system.

    Want to make it interesting Dave? I'll bet you twenty bucks we vote to go back to the old system.

    @ Zuckerman: "IRV is easy to understand."

    That's a joke. A sad, sad joke. As Haik (and many others since 2006) has explained, it's terribly complicated and convoluted. Nobody really understands how the counting works except diehard politicos and Prog zealots. Sure, you can say, "you rank your choices." But if you think the average voter understands how his or her second and third place votes will affect the overall outcome of the election, you're just not being honest.

    You know what's easy to understand? One person, one vote, and one election at a time. If the first place finisher in the election doesn't garner a suffucient majority, we have a runoff between the first place finisher and the second place finisher -- a real, actual, human election with debates and everything, with the possibility that the SECOND PLACE FINISHER might actually change minds and prevail.

    A system that served the city well for about 200 years. A system that allowed the poor, victimized "third party" to rule Burlington for well over 20 years. There was no problem. IRV is a solution in search of a problem.

    Real elections. Democracy. What a concept. Now THAT's easy to understand.

    "As for "jimmy", Bob did not get the third most first place votes. He was second. Facts matter."

    So what did he learn from that? Interesting that you didn't even try to answer the question.

    "if you are writing under a ficticious name then live the consequences"

    Gee, thanks for setting the rules for us, "David Zuckerman." Here's one for you, run your posts through a spell checker before hitting the Post button.

    Compromise: We could change the process slightly, to have folks given an actual second ballot to turn in on election day, to be activated only in the case that their own first choice is eliminated. Perhaps this would more closely align with their idea of a runoff election, thereby becoming easier for them to comprehend.

    Yes it would be dummying the process down, and I don't mean to seem condescending. It would be a bit of an added expense to administrate, but no where near as expensive as a runoff election at a future date.

    If it helps to convey the concept, and if it is less expensive than administering a second election date, then it might be a worthy compromise.

    "There is a small active group of people who are vehemently opposed and they are going to try to repeal it. That too is Democracy. Lets see what happens."

    IRV gave us Bob Kiss and his posse. Game over.

    IRV has led to only one lively debate in its existence.That of IRV.
    The two mayoral elections with it have been riddled by candidates not wanting to offend a base of voters that is not even their own base of voters. Not the fault of the candidates but of the system.
    One of the biggest thing it has accomplished is the underhanded side of campaigns.
    Lets not debate the real issues firmly, but let underhanded politics, like digging up a former business partner of Hinda Miller to throw a little mud shortly before an election. This little trick had nothing to do with candidates capabilities, but was just plain mud throwing, and an easy way to get off topic and try to grab a few votes, while avoiding the real issues.Same can be said for what happened to Andy Montroll.
    In closing, what did this underhanded campaigning lead to?
    Underhandedness in City Hall. I need cite no more than the BT debacle created by the administration.
    Repeal IRV in March, restore the city and its system to credibility, and try to run the city the way it should be.
    Open, fair and transparent, it is not that way now.

    Karen, the problem is that a provisional second ballot is still a hypothetical election:

    "Dear Voter, thank you for casting your ballot. But it's not over. Please now cast a second ballot. How would you vote if the race were between ______ and ______?"

    That's not a real election. Real elections have their own dynamics that hypothetical elections simply do not and cannot. Issues emerge. Candidates do and say things during the runoff period that may impress voters or turn them off. It's very possible that Mrs. Voter above could come to a different decision in the actual runoff election than she did in the hypothetical instant runoff. That's called an election. That's called democracy.

    We should all want REAL elections. Saving time and money is absolutely not a valid reason for not holding real elections! This is America, not Techmerica.

    I have a great idea! IRV is so yesterday! Let's have Instant Predictive Voting (IPV)! The elite/superior people (and we all know who they are) get to decide who we really SHOULD vote for, and we simply make that person our Mayor. Only people who are smart enough and politically correct enough should be allowed to vote anyway, right? If people were really informed and qualified to vote, we know how the result would come out, right? So let's skip this messy, expensive, and unpredictable election thing altogether.

    yes Webber, ha hahhah hahaha... .

    If I understand things correctly, what's being advocated by the IRV detractors is a return to the old style of voting, not an improvement in runoff voting itself. so let's do muddy the waters while there is time; float more ideas, not less.

    @Sean You said, "Progs and Independents seem to have gotten elected to the Mayor's office and City Council BEFORE the introduction of IRV…" That was *exactly* my point: the people of Burlington clearly want more than two parties (since we saw third party candidates elected many times even under plurality voting). Since Burlington wants more than two parties, we need a voting system that works with more than two parties—IRV being one of those systems. David Zuckerman already talked about some of the problems Burlington had with third parties under plurality voting, so I won't repeat what he said. I will add that just because a third party candidate was elected doesn't necessarily mean that the system "worked" since it could have still been subject to the flaws of plurality voting that I mentioned before. Whether or not a third party candidate was elected is not a good test of whether or not the will of the voters was reflected in the final outcome. The point of IRV is *not* to elect third party candidates—the point is to reflect the will of the voters in the final outcome when there *are* more than two candidates.

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