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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If IRV is repealed, then the next election for mayor will revert to the old system: A simple plurality (40 percent) wins the day.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.

    @ Bradley:

    The only time in recent memory that people have claimed that the election of the Mayor did not reflect the general will of the electorate was the election of Kiss in 2009 under the IRV system.

    The old system worked. It worked fine. It worked great. There weren't any problems. Dems, Republicans, and Progs all got elected to the Mayor's office and Citry Council under the old system.

    What don't you get about that?

    What is "not to get about it" is that the only real contested race was when the seat was open. Otherwise folks figured it was the incumbent or the Republican and that others who could be viable should not run or else it might elect (god forbid) the Republican.

    This last race we saw four active and viable candidates. Folks felt comfortable putting everything they had behind Dan and he ran a great campaign. Without IRV he certainly would have had strong supporters, but the media and political world would have said he could not go anywhere because voters would have been too nervous to support him because of spoiler blah blah blah.

    Andy too would never have gotten the number of first place votes under the old system because those who are P/D or D/P would have coalesced (sp?) around Bob as the fear of Kurt would have been discussed far more in the media and political circles. These are the realities of the old system.

    When was the last time there were 4 viable candidates in a race? Can anyone tell me that?

    Also...why is it so great to have more time for campaigning and "new ideas"? Isn't it the job of candidates to make all their pitches for the general election? Who is holding something back for the potential run-off?

    As for being locked into ones first choice...I am afraid I miss the logic of the presented problem? Why would one's first choice change (unless there was some grand revelation...again...back to the earlier point that everything should come out pro and con for the general election)? Gee...I really wanted Kurt to win...but now...I guess I really like Bob more? Come on.

    The idea that it is complicated is being stirred by those that don't like it. Voting for your first choice does not hurt your first choice. Voting for your second choice second does not hurt that candidate either (of course...if you are stuck on condorcet as Haik is then it makes a difference...but apply one form of tabulation to a different form of election is a bit off base since folks might have voted differently had the convoluted condorcet system been explained as the system that was going to be applied. why condorcet is not used. 1) it is too complicated and 2) it lends itself to far more manipulation as people can change the outcome with their second and third place votes if cast strategically. Something that is not so for IRV). system is perfect. I am not trying to make IRV out to be perfect. But it is better than the alternatives. Please remember...repealing IRV does not return us to a majority winner or a run-off, it returns us to a 40% winner (plurality) or run-off threshold. What sense is there to that? I know that folks have indicated that some do not know the difference between plurality and majority. Well, if nothing else...a lot more know now than used to.

    The same could be said for how the system works in DC. Far more people understand cloture (60 votes) in the Senate than used to. I think that is a good thing (understanding it...not necessarily that it is the system).

    All of this discussion is good for democracy, for voters and hopefully for further lively debate.

    Sorry I do not get all of my spelling right...I actually spend little time on this as there is far too much to do in a day, so I type fast and make a few errors. If attacking my spelling is the best you can do, then I am fine with that : )

    " system is perfect. I am not trying to make IRV out to be perfect. But it is better than the alternatives."

    No! No matter how many times you say it, it is NOT better than what existed before. It isn't. We know all the arguments, and we disagree. The fact that you've convinced yourself that it is better, just doesn't make it so for the rest of us.

    To the rest of us, your new house isn't better than your old one. But since you've invested in the new one, you have to believe that it's better. I'm happy for you that you've successfully convinced yourself. Congratulations. But the rest of us don't have to agree with you that your new one's better. Stop trying so hard.

    engaging discussion.... in a perfect world no one believes in UFO's, creationism, laser beams destroyed the WTC, obama wasn't born in america... and EVERYONE understands IRV the way all informed citizens in this discussion do. but face it folks, it just ain't going to be so. so regardless of cost (and it's not really that much) and to maintain trust in our elections, let's mandate 2 person runoff elections if no one gets at least 40%. regarding our multiparty "system," you'll notice that in city council races it's basically 2 parties- just different parties depending on wards. multi party governments usually form as a result of the parliamentary system. Unfortunately that's not what we have at any level in the US. it's always left/center vs right/center regardless of what the labels are.

    Down with IRV. If we did not have IRV in the last mayors race we would not be stuck with mayor Leapold woops, i mean Bob Kiss. Zuckerman wants to keep IRV because he knows with out it, it would be the down fall of the evil empire.

    Down with IRV. If we did not have IRV in the last mayors race we would not be stuck with mayor Leapold woops, i mean Bob Kiss. Zuckerman wants to keep IRV because he knows with out it, it would be the down fall of the evil empire.

    IRV=Voter Disenfranchisement

    On Tuesday, March 3rd 2009, I voted for Mayor but my vote didn't count and neither did 605 other votes. This is called voter disenfranchisement. So how did this happen? It all started with a voting system called IRV (Instant Runoff Voting) where voters ranked their candidates in order of preference on the ballot.

    Unfortunately, under this system, if you chose not to rank your candidates or you chose only one candidate (who happened not to make the final runoff) your vote was not counted.

    The final runoff between Kiss and Wright was decided by 8,374 votes, not the total 8,980 votes cast for Mayor. Kiss won by 4,313 votes to Wright's 4,061 votes. Now add their two numbers together and you get 8,374, which leaves 606 ballots in an exhausted pile that's not counted under IRV rules.

    I would have liked to have voted in an election between Kiss and Wright as the only two candidates. I did not know or would have guessed that the final runoff would be between those two candidates. This is where IRV fails.

    I was disenfranchised from that election because I did not want to rank candidates or strategize over the possible outcome. I just wanted to vote for one candidate and that's it. If it was a traditional election there would have been another separate runoff at a later date where I could have heard more from Kiss and Wright and then had the opportunity to cast a more informed vote, and one that would have counted.

    Former Ward 6 Election Clerk


    Sorry you felt disenfranchised. Of course...if you had simply voted for either Bob or Kurt as your second, third or fourth choice then your vote would have been counted. That was up to you.

    As for 606 fewer votes in the final run-off...that means a far far higher rate of participation (percentage wise) than just about any ward council run-off race in recent memory (over 93% of voters had a vote/say in the final tally). So the results actually show more participation...not less. Most would say that is more enfranchisement...not less. It is up to the individual voter to decided not to engage. Your choice.

    To Mark...fair point. Lets discuss a run-off vs. instant run-off. But that is not the question on the ballot. It is whether we return to a 40% victory threshold or stay at 50% (through IRV). If you can get Kurt and other Republicans to stay on as part of the coalition looking for a 50% threshold more power to you. I imagine you would lose most of them. I would not say the same about others in the coalition. But the reality is the majority of folks against IRV are sore losers who supported Kurt Wright. I bet most signatures are from wards 4 and 7 where the R's are the strongest and where they know the only hope of winning in the future is to return to 40%.

    Up to someone else to actually look through the 1600 signatures and compare addresses...but I am willing to bet that wards 4 and 7 have a disproportionate number of signatures. Hmmmm why would die hard Republicans want to return to 40%?

    So because I believe in one person, one vote and decided not to vote for other candidates by strategically ranking them you have concluded that I chose not to engage?

    I don't know what to say to that other than it's clear the Progs are going to take the "blame the voter" route on this.

    It's my fault my vote was not counted because I chose not to play the IRV game. That says a lot about politics right there.

    I was under the impression we had a democracy where every vote was counted.

    Throwing 7.5% of the ballots out of the equation to come up with false majority makes me wonder why I even voted.

    Oh, wait a second, I didn't vote. It was never counted because I made a bad choice.

    Stupid me.

    Americans are hard-wired for 2-way contests. It provides clarity, a clear mandate to the winners, and at the least, closure for and acceptance by the losers. The 3-way race is guaranteed to deliver none of the above, with or without IRV, or any advanced civics lessons.

    The current IRV hash is only the latest example how the 3-way race can frustrate the electorate, and we've had these regularly for 25+ years. If Kurt had won with IRV, everyone in the New North End would think IRV is the greatest thing since pockets. And the Progressives would have been rounding up those petitions.

    Deep down, I think the "Prog haters" are well aware that it's their own lack of self discipline that handed the Progressives their minority-plurality wins since Bernie left. Several election cycles could have gone to a single coalition Democrat/Republican candidate; Clavelle's comeback in '95 and Kiss' last win are 2 examples that come to mind. One big reason Burlington is a "Progressive" town is their skill at splitting the opposition. Could Kiss still win another election, now? Well, if Kurt Wright AND Ed Adrian run against him, he just might--with or without IRV!

    "I actually spend little time on this"

    Really? So who's writing your daily rambles on this subject, because someone's spending some time on them.

    "If attacking my spelling is the best you can do, then I am fine with that"

    Well, I also pointed out that you were unable to back up your claim that candidates learned from IRV results. Specifically, I asked for a any proof that Bob Kiss had learned anything at all from the fact that a Republican received more first place votes than he did. Since you ignored that and focused on an offhanded comment about your poor spelling, I guess we're not going to hear it.

    "Could Kiss still win another election, now? Well, if Kurt Wright AND Ed Adrian run against him, he just might"

    You have to be kidding.

    IRV did not confuse voters... two elections with 99.9% valid ballots prove that.

    Haik, technically, the last time we had a runoff was... twice last election! They were just instant.

    IRV may benefit one of the other major parties, and when it does, it will become sacred overnight. Astonishing that even some intelligent folks are so short-sighted that they can't see past one election. Wanna beat someone? Get a good candidate... corporate shills like Miller and Smith are easy for Burlington voters to see through.

    IRV is democratic and to the benefit of everyone, and most people understand this... and voted for it last time, and yes, understood what they were voting for. Apparently IRV "haters" think the voters of Burlington are stupid?

    Those voters also are sophisticated enough to reject this "ballot item", and they will. They will protect democracy for the benefit of ALL voters. :)

    "IRV did not confuse voters... two elections with 99.9% valid ballots prove that."

    Describe an invalid ballot that would indicate voter confusion.

    I'll describe a valid one that still reflects voter confusion - most people I know thought you *had* to rank all the candidates. Hundreds of people probably ranked Kiss above other candidates simply because they had heard of him, and thought they had to. Those are likely the votes that won him the election.


    The lessons learned are not like those that can be described in multiple choice questions as required under No Child Left Behind. They are more broad in concept. I.E. it is informative (to me, as I can only speak for myself) that the initial votes were fairly evenly split amongst all three top candidates. And that Dan did reasonably well as a non-partisan candidate. That shows the breadth of Burlington voters mindsets. That is helpful to me as a Rep. When voters have to vote for the "most likely to win" as opposed to "who do I want" then that information does not come out in the numbers.

    As for the rambles...they take a couple minutes at most.

    As for supporting IRV or not whether Progressives win...not true. I support it either way because it does give more options. period. I support it statewide as well...even though it will be more helpful to Democrats in all likelihood.

    And Owen, you misread what I write in order to fit your anger. I do not have a "blame the voter" agenda. Each voter makes a is up to him or her to decide what to do with it. Showing up is the first choice. The second one is deciding to vote for 1, 2 or more candidates (which is the equivalent of choosing to show up to the run-offs).

    If we decide to go to a 50% and "regular" runoff system would it be wrong to only include the top two? I mean Andy did pretty well in IRV. should we not have as many run-offs as there are candidates (minus 1)? That way voters will get to make a decision each time with all the new information that could be provided and with all the options on the table? There could be a closer race, say 33-32-31 percent. Should the third person be eliminated right away? Clearly that's not fair?

    But then again...IRV allows for each candidate to stay in as many rounds as they have support to warrant it.

    Ummm the fact that the ballots were, with the exception of ONE ballot, filled out such that they could be counted by machine or election official, and that the intention of the voter was clear, well.. that's the meaning of valid. If people were really confused, one could expect a least a few more ballots marked in an uncountable way.

    As for your "most people I know" comment, I don't even know where to begin... hmm funny, most people *I* know understand IRV and voted for Kiss, pretty sure THOSE votes "won him the election".

    Did you really mean a couple of people thought that and maybe you are exaggerating? Or do you have a really small group of acquaintances? I seem to remember simple, clear instructions on the ballot... for those who cared to find out, which seems to be most people who voted.

    This debate should not be about current politicians or the current political situation. Do you believe that instant run-off is effective, does it change the face of politics, does it change the candidates' behaviors, and most importantly, does it change the outcome of our elections in an unintended manner? It is really too important an issue to get mired in whether one prefers Kiss or Wright.

    I never liked the idea of IRV, and I don't like its reality. Just like I don't like the electoral college. I prefer candidates be elected by the popular vote.

    "The lessons learned are not like those that can be described in multiple choice questions as required under No Child Left Behind."

    I didn't ask for that. I asked what Bob Kiss had learned. I don't think he learned a thing, because he's certainly not behaving any differently, but I'll give you a fourth chance to correct that perception.

    "most people *I* know... voted for Kiss"

    What a surprise.

    "pretty sure THOSE votes "won him the election".

    Given that he won in the third round, they absolutely didn't.

    Certainly you'll concede that it is possible to be confused by IRV and still complete a ballot correctly. If this is true, then the percentage of "valid ballots" in no way indicates that IRV is not confusing to people.

    With Mr. Zuckermans comments of wards 4 and 7 having a disproportionate number of signatures. We may very well have more signatures than other wards, because we care about democracy. By the way will Hinesburg be the next town to go with IRV?

    "But the reality is the majority of folks against IRV are sore losers who supported Kurt Wright."

    David, that was a stupid thing to say. I don't think you like anyone questioning IRV.

    "But the reality is the majority of folks against IRV are sore losers who supported Kurt Wright."

    I liked that this was followed by an admission that this was just a guess, and that it would be up to "someone else" to prove his statement. Party line and nothing but party line, I'd love to see one of these people step up and have their own opinion for once.


    I think many people in many wards "care about democracy". That was not the point. The point (that was not challenged) was that more signatures probably came from those wards because more people there are upset that the result is not what they wanted. Of course, the result had nothing to do with the voting system. Since neither Kurt nor Bob got 40% in the first round there would have been a run-off under the old system (except that many who voted for Andy or Dan would probably have voted for either Bob or Kurt (not necessarily in that order since they would have been perceived as the front runners.)

    In that run-off, if the same people came out to vote...Bob would have just would have taken 4 more weeks and more money (for campaigns and for logistics of running an election etc.) But then again...this is just too logical for "jimmy" and "webber" (thank you Dale for at least having the courage to put your full name behind your words).

    And Dale- As for Hinesburg, I will give you the decency to respond. I have no idea what the people of Hinesburg want at this point. I do not plan to move there and just jump in with my answers etc. Since I do not even live there it would be a bit presumptuous (sp?) to speak for them.

    I agree with Deb that the discussion should not be about Kurt or Bob or the recent candidates. But it does come to that because it is the nature of the beast. While I have used the examples of the recent election, I have generally tried to point out how the system worked (logistically) to include more voters in the run-off and to produce a quicker result so that the elected folks can get down to planning more quickly. It also saves money and allows for more candidates to be viable. It gives those that are elected and those that are not a greater understanding of the preferences of the voters since folks can vote their first choice without being encumbered by the "spoiler" conundrum. It is not hard to understand and there is far less downside to voting ones choices in the order that one actually believes in (compared with simple plurality.)

    The system did not elect Bob Kiss, the voters did. Whether one agrees with the will of the majority is a different question than whether the system worked or not. I am sure there will be a time when IRV elects someone I do not prefer. So be it. It will allow for all of the points above.

    Go ahead and attack the points again. I am done with this thread and I imagine most readers are probably done with it as well. We will all present our positions in the coming weeks and there will be a vote in March. We are all truly guessing (maybe educated, but still guessing) at the outcome until it actually happens. Obviously the majority thought it was a good idea 7 and 8 years ago. We will see whether the majority still does.

    Thanks for the discussion.

    "I am done with this thread and I imagine most readers are probably done with it as well."

    Thank goodness. Now that you've treated us to 7 or 8 LENGTHY lectures that basically tell us that you are superior to us.

    "In that run-off, if the same people came out to vote...Bob would have just would have taken 4 more weeks and more money"

    David, how on earth can you come to the conclusion that under a traditional runoff Bob would have won?

    1st of all, the Burlington Telecom issue would have had more time to surface and God knows what else may have happened. A lot can happen in 4 weeks. People change their minds.

    Let's at least be realistic here.

    If we had a traditional runoff it could have gone either way.

    "The reality is that far far fewer voters vote in a run-off." - Zuckerman, 12/31/09

    "In that run-off, if the same people came out to vote...Bob would have won....this is just too logical for 'jimmy'" - "Zuckerman," 1/4/10

    So Bad Bob would have won in a runoff if everyone came back out, but... not everyone would have come out, so... he would have won anyway? You're right, that's way too "logical" for me, "David." I guess you could call that Progressive logic - or that of a party-line zealot who doesn't think before he hits Post.

    BTW, either post your birth certificate to prove you're not pulling a Don Draper or knock it off with the "full legal name or you're automatically wrong" nonsense. Most of the world got over that years ago.

    OF COURSE BOB WOULD HAVE WON. Come on! Everybody knows that, silly. He's the Prog so he would have won. Duh. Frankly, I don't even know why we bother with elections anyway. They're just a waste of time and money. Especially runoffs! Sheesh! Progs are ENTITLED to hold the mayorship, ergo, Bob would have won.

    Of course nothing could POSSIBLY have changed the voters minds between the primary and runoff elections!

    The Great Prog has spoken!

    Floating an opinion and calling it "logic" that other people are too stupid to understand isn't even the funniest part. It's that he completely disagreed with himself to support the opinion. Hi-larious!

    It's amazing how a sensible third way is utterly ignored in this debate despite efforts to educate people in Burlington. There is another option that is better than IRV *or* the 40% plurality (or delayed runoff if no one gets 40%). It's called the Condorcet method (named after a French mathematician and political philosopher from 200 years ago), it uses the same ranked-order ballot that IRV uses and, if there is a Condorcet winner, that person beat *every* other candidate in a runoff (which is what the IRV final round is) with just the Condorcet winner and that other candidate.

    The reason the 2009 mayoral election screwed up was that Andy Montroll was that Condorcet winner, Andy would have beaten *any* other candidate (including Bob Kiss) in the final round if Andy was in the final round. That is a fact of public record. The problem is, with IRV's kabuki dance of candidate elimination and transferred votes, Andy having fewer *first* choice votes than either Bob or Kurt Wright, did not make it into the final round. But if he *had* gotten into the final round, he would have beaten either Kiss or Wright (or Dan Smith).

    The problem for Democrats is that even though they had the most popular candidate (Andy had voter preference than either Bob or Kurt or Dan), their candidate did not win. That causes the same kind of thwarted voter resentment that the 2000 Prez election caused by electing the candidate with minority support.

    The problem with the Republicans is that by remaining loyal to their first choice (Wright), they actually helped elect the candidate that they *least* supported, the Prog candidate. This is because if they had recognized and accepted that their favorite candidate would not win and ranked their compromise candidate (Montroll) above their favorite (Wright), their less disliked candidate would get into the final round and beat their most disliked candidate. That causes voter regret and if IRV survives this referendum, Republicans have to think twice about supporting their favorite and may choose to vote strategically for the Dem just to keep the Prog candidate from winning in IRV.

    Generally requiring voters to vote strategically is a bad thing, we want voters to vote sincerely for the candidate they like the best without worrying that their sincere vote will cause more harm to their political goals than an insincere compromise vote. Avoiding strategic voting was one reason that IRV was adopted in the first place, and it is clear it failed that purpose in Burlington in 2009, at least from the *legitimate* Republican POV.

    It is not a legitimate argument for Republicans to reject IRV because it didn't elect their guy, Kurt Wright. Wright should not have been elected against the wishes of the majority of Burlington voters. But Bob Kiss should not have been elected when nearly 600 more voters marked their ballots that they preferred Andy Montroll over Kiss. And voting for Kurt Wright as your first choice should not have helped elect Bob Kiss and that is precisely what happened last March.

    But IRV is better than the stupid plurality winner election (known as "First Past the Pole"). The ranked-order ballot in necessary to know how voters would vote if they couldn't get their first pick. But the way that IRV tabulates the vote, resolves that information, and chooses the winner is messed up and Condorcet would fix that.

    It's really remarkable that simple solutions (without the historical tradition that the better known methods have) that solve the legitimate concerns of both the majority and minority are passed over and we have to choose between two bad methods, even if one method is badder than the other.

    The other thing I forgot to mention is that, in this go for broke referendum, one side or the other is going to lose. The side that loses, whether they be the pro-IRV or anti-IRV people, are gonna wish we had Condorcet.

    And the side that wins could have their *legitimate* concerns accommodated with Condorcet. The pro-IRV people could accommodate their concern to not elect the minority candidate because the majority splits their vote between two others. The anti-IRV people could accommodate their concern to not elect their least favorite candidate when the support their most favorite candidate.

    Isn't this false dichotomy (IRV vs. plurality) sad? If people were smart and knew how to listen and not just foolishly cheer their ill-informed position, we would all be better off. And it would be neither IRV or the old 40%+ plurality (or delayed runoff if no one gets 40%). It's really stupid, but with turkeys like W or Sarah Palin or Dan Quayle running for high office (and sometimes attaining it), polarized politics can be very stupid.

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    If I remember correctly, people have been talking about Condorcet for well over a year in local blogs. Certainly enough time to have circulated their own petition.

    So why isn't it on the ballot this March. Why are we choosing between Dumb and Dumber?

    "The problem with the Republicans is that by remaining loyal to their first choice (Wright), they actually helped elect the candidate that they *least* supported, the Prog candidate. This is because if they had recognized and accepted that their favorite candidate would not win and ranked their compromise candidate (Montroll) above their favorite (Wright), their less disliked candidate would get into the final round and beat their most disliked candidate. That causes voter regret and if IRV survives this referendum, Republicans have to think twice about supporting their favorite and may choose to vote strategically for the Dem just to keep the Prog candidate from winning in IRV."

    Is that true? Who was the 2nd choice of the Wright voters? Historically speaking, Burlington Republicans have usually gone with the Progs over the Dems. Strange but true. Just look at the number of Kevin Curley's votes that went to Bob Kiss in 2006.

    That said. Condorcet does seem interesting. Has it been used anywhere? In such a system I'd worry that someone might be elected who lacks a base of support... What's to stop a candidate who is likable but doesn't take strong positions from winning just be being the least offensive?

    Well, normally we think that the least offensive candidate (from the POV of the majority of voters) is better than a candidate that is more offensive.

    The breakdown you ask for is available at (or you can write your own computer program and get it from the Burlington City Clerk data). It is:

    1332 M>K>W
    767 M>W>K
    455 M
    2043 K>M>W
    371 K>W>M
    568 K
    1513 W>M>K
    495 W>K>M
    1289 W

    Of the 2008 voters that expressed an interest between the three and picked Wright as their first choice, by a better than 3 to 1 ratio (1513 vs. 495), they preferred Montroll over Kiss. So by voting for Wright as their first choice, they ended up solidifying Kiss's victory in IRV. And this would not have happened if the ballots were tabulated using Condorcet rules rather than IRV rules.

    But nothing could have elected Wright except the illegit strategy of a delayed runoff where more Conservatives bother to come back to the polls than the Liberals. That's the only way they could hope to get Wright elected in a town such as Burlington Vermont. But, at least, the Republicans should have been able to vote for their guy without helping elect the guy they liked the least.

    Why are the anti-IRV folk calling their group 'one person, one vote'? that seems awfully disingenuous when IRV undeniably provides ONE single transferable vote.

    If the anti-IRV group had a solid argument for going back to 40% +1 it seems they wouldn't need to attempt to mislead people about how the system works.

    This tactic seems really disrespectful to the voters when you consider that IRV was approved just a few years ago by almost a 2/3 majority. If the anti-IRV folks continue telling the voters they were ignorant and didn't understand what they were approving they'll likely lose.

    If they make it about Bob Kiss they might win. (And I'll lose the 6-pack I bet on this to Haik Bedrosian before the BT mess.)

    Sad either way.

    About electing the "least offensive" candidate with a purported small base, I really doubt that is what the case was with Andy Montroll. No one had a majority base of first choice. But Montroll killed either Kiss or Wright (or Smith) with the sum of 1st-choice and 2nd-choice votes. But it was only the 1st-choice (and the transferred or promoted votes from the eliminated Smith and Simpson) that counted in the elimination which is why, under IRV rules, that Montroll didn't get to the final round (where he would have beaten Kiss or Wright or anyone else).

    It is true that the Condorcet method favors the *centrist* candidate and that is because for voters on either the left or right fringe, their 2nd-choice candidate is not likely to be the guy at the opposite side fringe. Both the Republicans and the Progs will likely choose the Dem as their 2nd-choice. I don't see electing a centrist as a bad thing, but that (centrism) is no reason to elect a candidate. The reason the Condorcet winner should be elected is because that is the candidate that the majority of voters prefer to *any* other candidate when asked to choose between the two. That is the only reason (majority rule) and that is good enough.

    One last thing, if anyone is interested, I have a 6-page paper entitled "The Failure of Instant Run-off Voting to accomplish the very purposes for which it was adopted: An object lesson in Burlington Vermont". I wrote it last March and disseminated it among a few. But it was ignored in favor or either Dumb (IRV) or Dumber (Plurality).

    If you want a pdf copy, email me at [email protected] and I'll send you a copy.

    what is good about IRV
    a mayor wins when he received 29 percent. The progs were saying that the turn out rate wound be higher WRONG 22 percent in the last mayors race voted. I don't think we should be force to vote for all the canidates. over 600 voters were not involved in voting for the mayor when they voted in the mayors race. does that sound right. so i have to say IRV is bad and this is not about Kiss, if Kurt or Andy had 29 percent it still would not be right. IRv is the reason why Kiss won. the people who really did not want Kiss voted for him in the 3 or 4 round we are not dumb Jason, David.

    "So why isn't it on the ballot this March."

    Because you didn't get it on there?

    Give 'em Hell, Loyal.

    Repeal IRV

    But Owen, Loyal doesn't make any sense.


    2002 Council and Mayoral 7751
    2004 Council and Mayoral 8647
    2006 Council and Mayoral (IRV) 9865
    2009 Council and Mayoral (IRV) 8980

    turnout is at leas as good (even a little better) with IRV. but the question is what would the turnout be with a delayed runoff (which is what Loyal apparently want to return to)? we don't have an example for the Mayoral, but how about the 2009 Ward 7 race:

    Election Day 1573
    Runoff Day 787

    half as much. Vince Dober cannot claim that his election securely reflects the will of Ward 7 voters when he was not the plurality winner on Election Day and squeeked by a thin victory on Runoff Day when only half the previous voters got to the polls. but, it was the law (the rules agreed to in advance) so Vince's election to Council is legit.

    People who choose not to vote for secondary or tertiary choices on the ranked ballot are people who choose not to vote in the runoff. But their choice was no inconvenience to them. They *could* have chosen to vote for a back-up candidate (as 2nd choice) on Election Day with no extra effort. But returning to the old system would require people to go through the extra bother and expense of returning to the polls 3 weeks later and we *all* know (if you deny this, I would say you're untruthful) that far fewer people will show up to the polls. Elections with far less voter participation cannot be considered to be as democratic as elections with greater voter participation. Unless you're someone opposed to Motor-Voter, we do not want to make voters jump through extra and unnecessary hoops to vote and that is what a delayed runoff does.

    Even though it did okay in 2006, IRV *did* screw up in 2009. It elected the wrong candidate. It suffered a spoiler problem (but Plurality is even worse) and it will encourage strategic voting by Republicans that liked Kurt and disliked Bob the most. These 1500+ Wright voters have now figured out that their vote for Kurt as first choice kept Andy out of the final IRV round and actually *aided* electing the candidate they least preferred. If IRV survives, these folk have to be thinking about how well their interests are served by being loyal to their favorite candidate. If they had forsaken their favorite candidate (or just stayed home), their lessor disliked candidate (Montroll) would have gotten into the final IRV round and the certainly beaten their most disliked candidate.

    So IRV encourages strategic voting and that is a bad thing. But Plurality is even worse. Especially for a Dem/Prog/Liberal in Burlington (the majority voter in Burlington). It encourages strategic voting even more. Progs and Dems are gonna have to worry about voting for their first choice and may decide to forsake their first choice just to keep the Republican from winning with 40%.

    Me: "So why isn't it on the ballot this March."

    Jimmy: "Because you didn't get it on there?"

    Me? I stirred up as much interest as I could. Wrote papers explaining what's going on. Even made a lame attempt at a petition with Condorcet. But convenient ignorance seems to prevail over *ostensibly* less convenient knowledge (there is nothing more inconvenient about the Condorcet rules, same ranked-order ballot as IRV, but the counting of the vote does a better job than IRV and that is not inconvenient to anyone).

    No, that is what my complaint is about. Stupid pro-IRV people who claim that it worked just fine in 2009, just as it's designed to. And cynical anti-IRV people who feel entitled to rule even when the majority of the electorate is against them.

    They're both wrong. But IRV is better than plurality. If Kurt Wright had squeezed out a 40% "victory" with 60% voting against him or squeezed out a "victory" with less than half the electorate returning to the polls on Runoff Day, his election would be far less legitimate than Bob Kiss. We know that Bob Kiss was preferred to Kurt Wright because 252 more voters preferred Kiss over Wright on Election Day. But the problem with IRV is that it didn't ask the same question regarding Kiss and Montroll. If it had, we would find that 587 more voters preferred Montroll over Kiss. That's why and how IRV screwed up. It did not screw up by keeping Kurt Wright out of the mayor's chair. The Repubs don't want to admit it, but Kurt Wright came in 3rd last March. He was the 3rd most preferred candidate by Burlington voters. Bob Kiss was the 2nd most preferred candidate and Andy Montroll was the most preferred candidate. That is what the ballots said. But IRV had funky rules that prevented Montroll from going up against Kiss.

    "Me? I stirred up as much interest as I could."

    Yeah, that's not how you get something on the ballot. You have to gather signatures.

    You have to get *other* people to sign the signatures. And it takes more than one crying in the wilderness to do the canvassing.

    "You have to get *other* people to sign the signatures."

    ...and you have to get other people to vote for it. That's kind of the idea, if you can't get people to sign a petition then the initiative probably has little chance of passing.

    Jimmy, no dispute. I tried to get Burlington voters interested in Condorcet because it addresses the problems in Plurality that IRV intended to and it doesn't have the problems that IRV has. Condorcet is actually the "purest" method to translate the principles a simple democratic vote between two candidates (and we all agree how that should be decided) to the problem of when there are more than two serious candidates. IRV is this contrived method. Usually IRV will pick the same winner as Condorcet (and it did here in 2006), but it's a completely different tabulation algorithm so it cannot be expected to always pick the same winner. In 2009 it didn't and lots of Burlington voters have good reason to believe it failed.

    But the solution is to not return to the crappy old system. We hear "if it's not broken, don't fix it", but if we return to the old system and a minority candidate is elected because not enough voters came to the Runoff election or because the minority candidate got 40%, then we will see the system as broken.

    But people are kinda dumb and like simplicity "You be either fer IRV or you be agin' it!" Well, I'm not in either camp. I'm for the ranked-order ballot but not for IRV tabulation of it. I'll vote against this repeal referendum, but I'm not really for IRV.

    It looks like SJvoter got the right idea with his YouTube video, but sooooo few people here really get it. Small wonder, even though I am on the same side as as far as their goals are, I am still opposed to their IRV "happy talk". They just don't get it. IRV *failed* in 2009. But you don't get it either. Plurality (with or without delayed runoff) is worse. It is broken and we just have seen it break yet like we saw IRV break in 2009.

    This debate is totally ridiculous. Debating IRV vs. "Condorcet" is laughable pointy-headed professor nonsense. The world doesn't give a shit about pipe-smoking, professorial, armchair debates about how one should rank candidates and then tabulate the votes. It is as far removed from reality as the moon. Get real.

    Down with IRV.

    So Webber (or faux-Webber, I can't tell who is who), you like electing the minority supported candidate? Minority rule. Sounds good for democracy.

    There are the silly pro-IRV folks who say it's the best thing since sliced bread and more happy talk that it "worked perfectly" or "exactly as it was meant to".

    And then there are the cynical anti-IRV folks who feel entitled to rule even when they are the minority. Sounds very typically Bushie-Republican. Why bother to have elections? Let's just enthrone who the Bushie-Republicans like since their convinced they're entitled to power even against the wishes of the majority of the electorate.

    So the choice is "pointy-headed professor nonsense" (would that include UVM Prof Anthony Gierzynski?) or the "Duh" from mindless pro-IRV happy talkers or the "Duh" from mouth-frothing anti-IRV reactionaries that would like to live with the long-known pathologies of Plurality rule in a multi-party environment. Why don't we just give the election to the minority? "Minority Rule!! Rah! Rah! Rah!"


    Yup, plurality and runoff. The guy who gets the most votes. Get that, perfesser?

    Yeah, most votes wins. Period. End of story. It's worked that way without revolution for some 200 years in this country. Your implication that it's bad for democracy is demonstrably silly. If the most-votes-wins rule is bad for democracy, howcome it's been the accepted method of electing leaders for 200 years and hasn't produced any voter uprisings? Not one.

    Newsflash for you elitist social-engineering busybodies: the voters LIKE the plurality/runoff system. Stop trying to tell us what's "better" for us. Stop trying to tell us we'd be happier doing it your "smart" way.

    Enough of the pointy-headed moonbeam voting-scheme fantasies, and laughable 200-year-old philosopher-mathematician indulgences already. Like we should take our cue from the 200 year old theories of some lazy-ass French nobleman.

    Back to primaries and runoffs.

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