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Burlington City Council fails to override ranked-choice veto

Published: Aug. 11, 2020 at 1:06 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 11, 2020 at 10:24 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The Burlington City Council Monday was unable to override Mayor Miro Weinberger’s first-ever veto against having a ranked-choice voting question on the ballot in November.

Last month, the council voted 6-5 to for the system that allows voters to rank candidates based on preference, instead of just voting for one.

Mayor Weinberger, a Democrat, vetoed the measure last week. The council fell short Monday night of the eight votes needed to override his veto, with all Progressives and one independent voting yes and all five Democrats voting no.

Weinberger faces his own election next March, but Jared Carter, who teaches at Vermont Law School, says the mayor’s veto presented no legal conflict of interest.

“I don’t think there’s a legal conflict of interest. There’s no law or statute or otherwise that I am familiar with that says that the mayor can’t veto something that potentially has some political implications for him,” Carter said. “In fact, as I said, the statute-- the city charter itself-- actually requires the mayor to either sign or veto an ordinance by law. So I think he’s simply exercising that authority. Whether or not, politically, there is the appearance of a conflict, I suppose is up to the voters or the city of Burlington, but certainly, from a purely legal perspective, there’s no conflict of interest.”

Carter says Weinberger is required by law to either sign an ordinance or not sign it and return it to the City Council with an explanation.

In a letter to the council, Weinberger said he issued the veto because he has concerns about the resolution and thinks it’s “problematic.” He said it will cost the city too much money—roughly $45,000—to conduct a safe local election this November. He also thinks ranked-choice voting is divisive and will distract voters during “arguably the most important federal election in the country’s history.”

During public comments Monday, some people suggested the Democratic mayor issued the veto for political and personal gain, as he is up for reelection in March 2021.

Burlington used ranked-choice voting, also known as instant-runoff voting, in mayoral elections from 2005 and 2010 before voters repealed it after a contentious race in 2009, in which former mayor Bob Kiss was elected.

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