Wright Wants Recount in Burlington Mayor's Race
Republican Kurt Wright informed city officials verbally this morning that he wants a recount in the Burlington mayor's race, largely to ensure that the city's instant-runoff voting system worked properly.
"I don't expect this to change the outcome of this race, but I do believe that we should take the opportunity to feel comfortable about the process and the system," said Wright.
On election eve, Wright was ahead of Progressive Mayor Bob Kiss in the first two instant runoff rounds, but lost in the third — and final — round after the other candidates' second, third and fourth place rankings were tabulated. For a complete, ward-by-ward breakdown of the mayor's race, click Download 2009BurlingtonMayorIRVbyward (PDF file).
Wright said he'll send an official letter by midday. The recount will take place either Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday of next week.
The recount will be conducted by the Board of Civil Authority, which is comprised of the 14-member City Council and the Mayor, said Jonathan Leopold, the city's chief administrative officer. Because Mayor Bob Kiss, Wright, the city council president, and Democratic councilor Andy Montroll were candidates in the race, they will not be allowed to take part in the recount.
Wright said he was ready to move on and not ask for a recount. However, Wright said he was overwhelmed with emails, phone calls, and well-wishers stopping him on the street — all urging him to ask for the recount.
"This is only the second election that this system has been in place, and I think some people still don't understand how it is that the candidate who got the most first place votes in the first round and then the second round can then lose in the third round."
Wright said he's already extending his apologies to fellow councilors, who will be the ones charged with overseeing the recount.
"This is not about me and I do not expect to be elected, however if there was some egregious error and I’m elected, great," Wright said with a chuckle.
Wright said he has been urged to lead a citizen petition effort to dump IRV as the way to elect the mayor, but has rebuffed such calls.
"The citizens voted for IRV and if they choose to get rid of it, that process should be citizen-driven, too, and not encouraged by me," he said.
The IRV recount would be completed by hand, and the process would involve a sorting process of creating separate piles for each candidates' first-place votes, and then subsequently look at the eliminated candidates' second, third, fourth, and fifth place selections and adding them to the piles of the two candidates with the most votes, said Leopold.
Since it's already known that Kiss and Wright will have the most first-place votes, it should be easy to quickly sort through the votes of the other three candidates and recount the stacks, Leopold said.
The only costs incurred by the city would be the staff time devoted to setting things up for the BCA, which Leopold said would be minimal. Councilors would not be paid separately as it is part of their duties as councilors, for which they receive an annual stipend of $3000. The count itself could take as many as six hours to complete, Leopold estimated.
IRV supporters say the system worked just as it was designed — to have a series of instant runoffs until the candidate with the most support crossed the 50-percent threshold.
Here's how it broke down election eve: In the first round, Wright had 2951 (33%) votes to Kiss' 2585 (29%) and Montroll's 2063 (23%), and in the second round Wright had 3294 (37%) to Kiss' 2981 (34%) and Montroll's 2554 (29%) after Independent Dan Smith and Green Party candidate James Simpson's votes were eliminated and their 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%).
Interestingly enough, Kiss had compiled more votes than Wright after votes had been counted in six of the city's seven wards. It was Wright's strong showing in Ward 7 that put him over the top. His strong showing in the other New North End ward — Ward 4 — allowed him to make up the deficit in other parts of the city. In fact, both Kiss and Montroll bested Wright in the city's other five wards.
UPDATE: Mayor Bob Kiss is out of town and unavailable for comment, said spokesman Joe Reinert. "He feels the numbers don't suggest the need for a recount," said Reinert. "All this will do is cost city time and city money, but its certainly his prerogative to make the request."
Reinert added that the way the results have been portrayed by some is false: "This was not a one-lap race, or a two-lap race, it was a three-lap race and as such all that matters is who was ahead after three laps. I don't think its been helpful for people to say that Kurt was 'winning' after the first around because that doesn't exactly describe the way it works. There may be other ways to understand the how the IRV system works, but it doesn't necessarily require a recount."