Winner:
Haley Peterson, Grade 8:  Williston Central School

Instant Run-Off Voting

Haley Peterson and Secretary Markowitz

Under the current voting system that we follow in Vermont, if no candidate gets a majority victory (at least 50% of the votes) for the governor, lieutenant governor, or treasurer’s office, then the outcome of the election is determined by the Legislature. At the Legislature, a secret vote is conducted by the House of Representatives as well as the Senate to determine the candidates who will become the new occupants of these offices. The governor has been chosen by the legislature 21 times in the history of Vermont, as well as the 70 additional times the legislature has had to vote for other state officers without a majority win.

Many Vermonters disagree with this method of determining the winner of a race when there is no majority winner. I agree that we could use a better way to represent the ideas of the people of Vermont, since that is what democracy is all about. Though legislators potentially represent Vermonters, the vote to determine the winner of a race with no majority winner is secret, making some people feel not as comfortable with their representation.

I think that Vermont should use a system called instant run-off voting (IRV) instead our current method to determine the majority winner of a race. This system would require the use of a ranked choice ballot. On this ballot, voters would make their first choice for an office, as it has always been done, but would also include their second and third choice, etc. After an instant run-off voting election, ballots would be tallied beginning with counting all of the first choices for candidates. If at this point, there is no majority winner, a run-off count would be called for by the Secretary of State’s office and a recount committee would be developed. The candidate with the least number of votes would be removed and then the "run-off" portion of the vote comes into play. If the candidate you had as your first choice was eliminated, then your second choice would be tallied, but if it wasn’t, it would be counted again. With this method, it is ensured that a candidate will receive a majority and voters have a major influence on the elimination process and final determining of a winner.

Instant run-off voting has already been used successfully in other countries such as Australia, Ireland and Great Britain, and 52 out of 55 Vermont town meetings voted in favor of IRV. Many Vermont leaders and former leaders support this plan as well, such as the Secretary of State Deb Markowitz, and former Governor Howard Dean.

We are so lucky to live in a state like Vermont with government based on the people, considering that there are some places where no democracy exists at all. So I believe that when presented with opportunities to give the people of a state, or country, a more involved and important say in the politics of that place, we should take advantage of them.