Scott Allows Burlington Ranked-Choice Voting Bill to Become Law | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

News + Opinion » News

Scott Allows Burlington Ranked-Choice Voting Bill to Become Law


Published May 19, 2022 at 9:31 p.m.

  • Sean Metcalf
It's baaack.

Ranked-choice voting is returning to Burlington. On Thursday, Gov. Phil Scott allowed a bill changing the city charter to become law without his signature.

The enactment of H.744 reinstates a voting system that Burlingtonians repealed after a controversial mayoral race more than a decade ago. This time, only city councilors will be chosen by the voting system, which allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate receives a majority of votes, lesser-ranked choices come into play to determine a winner.

In a letter to lawmakers, Scott said he allowed the bill to become law because of its limited scope. But he wouldn't sign it because he's opposed to instituting ranked-choice voting statewide.

"I believe one person should get one vote," Scott wrote, "and candidates who get the most votes should win elections."
In a ranked-choice election, voters assign rankings to each candidate in order of their liking. If a candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round, that person wins; otherwise, the election goes to an instant runoff. The last-place finisher is eliminated, and votes that were cast for that candidate are assigned to those voters' second choices. The process continues until one candidate hits the 50 percent-plus-one threshold.

The voting system fell out of favor after the 2009 mayoral race, which crowned Progressive Bob Kiss the winner, even though he failed to win the most first-place votes over three rounds of voting. He defeated major party candidates Kurt Wright — a Republican who got the most votes in the first and second rounds, but fell short of 50 percent — and Andy Montroll, a Democrat who received the most first and second-place votes. Voters repealed the system in 2010.

Scott reflected on the drama in his letter, writing that the election "yielded flawed results."

"Nevertheless, the political winds have shifted and once again Burlington voters, for now, favor ranked choice voting," Scott said.
Indeed, more than 60 percent of voters approved the ballot measure in March 2021. The system will make its comeback on Town Meeting Day 2023.

The bill was one of several Burlington charter changes that lawmakers vetted this session. In April, Scott signed into law a bill allowing the city to charge carbon taxes on owners of properties heated with fossil fuels. Earlier this month, however, he vetoed a measure that would have required landlords to have a "just cause" to evict tenants in Burlington. A subsequent override vote failed by one vote.