Constitutional Amendment Proposals

Two points in the majority election process need to be remembered as they currently exist in Vermont’s constitution, Chapter II, §47—first, that candidates for Governor, Lieutenant-Governor, and Treasurer need a 51% majority to win the vote, and second, if that does not happen, it is decided by vote of the Legislature when they next meet.

Various constitutional amendment proposals have been put forth since 1971 to change the majority election process. These proposals have attempted to change the who, the how, or the when of the process. Some try to change the method of election to a plurality, rather than majority requirement. Some propose a special second election of run-off voting in cases where a majority (or plurality) is not attained, in lieu of having the legislature decide the election. The proposals are usually some combination of the above factors, with similar ideas circling back around, sometimes with other factors added such as which offices are effected, or adding in term limitations. Interestingly, no proposals have called for instant run-off voting, though three bills were introduced in the 2001-2002 session (H.175, S.50, and S.94) that would have changed Vermont’s election process entirely.

The majority of the proposals died in the senate committee, but three proposals in 1971, 1975, and 1988 passed the senate and met their end in the House. An additional proposal in 1971 actually passed both the House and the Senate and met the approval of the Governor, only to be rejected by the people when it went to vote at Town Meeting Day, 1974.

The most recent implementation of this section of the constitution was in the 2014 Gubernatorial election. Incumbent Governor Peter Shumlin did not obtain a majority vote and the election was decided in his favor by the Vermont Legislature on January 8, 2015. Fifteen years earlier, Senator Shumlin sponsored the second constitutional amendment proposal of 1999 that called for the election of Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Treasurer by plurality vote.

For more information on the amendment process, see Amending the Constitution.

Constitutional Amendment Proposals Related to Majority Requirement

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This page was last updated: 2015-01-29