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Ranked-choice voting misses deadline for Burlington 2020 ballot

(WCAX)
Published: Dec. 18, 2019 at 12:14 AM EST
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A question on whether to reinstate instant-runoff voting in Burlington elections will not appear on the March 2020 ballot.

Dec. 16 was the deadline when the charter change committee had to have reviewed the resolution and sent it back to the City Council for a final vote on whether to put it on the ballot. That vote never happened.

Joan Shannon, D-Burlington City Council, sits on the charter change committee. She says they weren’t given enough time to thoroughly review it.

“It was held up simply because it had only been brought to the council one week before it had to be submitted for the last meeting, so we just didn't have time to get to it,” Shannon told WCAX News. “Occasionally, something only takes one meeting but this is a new voting system so it's going to take more time than that. The last time we put IRV on the ballot, I'm thinking we probably had four or five meetings about it."

The proposal first went before the City Council on Dec. 2. The council voted 9-3 to approve it and send it to the charter change committee.

Jack Hanson, P–Burlington City Council, wrote the resolution. He agrees the timeline was quick but he doesn’t think it was unrealistic. He thinks the charter change committee brushed it off.

“I believe it was enough time for the committee to turn this around, personally, which is why I voted for it-- because I believed that that was possible and I still think it was possible but the committee didn't make the time to do that,” Hanson said. “It's definitely frustrating that the committee didn't make a good faith effort to take this issue up. They scheduled the one meeting. It was a short meeting and when they got to that item, two out of the three committee members adjourned that meeting and left without taking it up."

Shannon says she also wants to make sure the voters fully comprehend what instant-runoff voting is before heading to the polls, especially since voters repealed it in 2010.

“My concerns are that the voters voted it down and I think it is important to give them an opportunity to weigh in to understand a little bit more about why they first supported it and decided they did not support it,” she said. “Some of the input I've been getting is fairly complex and detailed."

There are also talks of possibly changing some of the language in the resolution. An option is to revise the wording to allow the City Council to change the voting method by resolution or by ordinance rather than by charter change. Hanson says he hopes to see it pass as written but he’s open to hearing other people’s suggestions.