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Advocacy group joins with Vermont state senators to produce ad supporting Ranked Choice Voting bill

Pat Bradley
Voting stations at a polling site

A bill has been introduced in the Vermont Senate to implement Ranked Choice Voting in certain elections. A statewide advocacy group has launched an advertising campaign featuring the bills’ key sponsors to promote the idea.

In Ranked Choice Voting, rather than choosing one candidate, voters rank their preferences. A high-profile example is the race for New York City mayor.

A bill has been introduced in the Vermont Senate that would implement the system for federal elections and the presidential primary in the state.

The Vermont Public Interest Research Group worked with RepresentUs to create an ad for broadcast, streaming and digital media. It features co-sponsors Kesha Ram Hinsdale and Senate Pro Tem Becca Balint, both of whom are Democrats running for Congress, and Progressive/Democratic Senator Chris Pearson.

“Together we can strengthen our democracy with ranked choice voting. It’s a simple reform. As easy as 1-2-3. It gives voters more choice. More voice. And a stronger democracy.”

VPIRG Executive Director Paul Burns says this is an important campaign as democracy is challenged.

“Ranked Choice Voting, it’s the next logical step toward making Vermont the most voter friendly state in the country. It’s one of the fundamental tenants of democracy that elections are supposed to be about representing the will of the majority of people and that’s another key reason why Ranked Choice Voting is so important," said Burns. "Now S.229 applies, or would apply, to races for federal offices in Vermont, U.S. House and U.S. Senate as well as the presidential primary and presidential general election and this would start in 2024.”

Lead sponsor Democratic state Senator Kesha Ram Hinsdale says Ranked Choice voting brings more voters to the polls and encourages more engagement by candidates.

“Ranked Choice Voting makes sure that candidates are talking to everybody, staying engaged, really speaking to a broad range of issues that voters care about. And as we know for working people once you hear that ‘hey nobody got a majority of votes and there might be a run-off election or a special election’ we see a significant drop off in participation." Senator Ram Hinsdale continued, "So Ranked Choice Voting has long been a way to capture more perspectives, to save the taxpayers’ money so that they only have to go through the election one time and make sure that you can have a diversity of candidates.”

Progressive/Democratic Senator Chris Pearson says the voting system makes sense in Vermont where there are often more than three candidates on the ballot.

“We are not typically very entrenched in the parties. We’re very independent minded when we go to the polls. And a ranked choice ballot just solves the very simple problem of what happens when you have more than two choices. Because after all," said Pearson, "we are also seeing particularly in primaries, in the presidential primary, the minimum amount of candidates we’ve had lately I think is twelve and that creates all sorts of problems and this would solve that.”

If the Senate bill does pass, that could be the end of the line: Republican Governor Phil Scott was asked about the bill during his weekly briefing on Tuesday.

“My position hasn’t changed on that. I am not supportive of that. I think the person with the most votes wins.”

Ranked Choice Voting has also been referred to as Instant Runoff Voting. It was implemented and used for two mayoral races in Burlington in 2006 and 2009 and repealed in 2010. In March of 2021 city voters approved a charter change that would use the system for city council races. Consideration of that charter change in the state legislature is pending.

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