• Progressive wins instant runoff vote in Burlington
     | March 08,2006
    AP Photo

    Progressive Bob Kiss celebrates winning the election for Mayor of Burlington onTuesday at a campaign party for his supporters, Tuesday, March 7, 2006, in Burlington, Vt. Kiss was elected mayor of Vermont's largest city Tuesday, winning on the second ballot of the instant runoff under the city's new election system.

    BURLINGTON — Burlington's instant runoff voting system was called into action on its inaugural run Tuesday, electing Progressive Bob Kiss mayor on the second ballot.

    "I think it ran really smoothly," said Jo LaMarche, the city's election director, just after the announcement of Kiss' win.

    Under instant runoff voting, also known as ranked-choice voting, residents voted for their first choice for mayor, but then listed as well their second, third, fourth and fifth choices in the five-way race.

    The aim is to settle highly competitive contests with a single trip to the voting booth, saving the city thousands on runoff elections. The city charter requires a winning candidate to get a majority vote.

    The first tally Tuesday night showed Kiss, a state representative, with 39 percent of the vote, while Democrat Hinda Miller had 31 percent and Republican Kevin Curley had 26 percent.

    Then Curley and two trailing independent candidates were dropped out of the count and their votes re-allocated according to voters' second choices.

    Kiss won on the second count, with 4,761 votes to Miller's 3,986.

    Cheers erupted in the city council chambers as the winning tally was being projected on screens.

    "It worked," said Terry Bouricius, a former Progressive Party state legislator who has long promoted instant runoff. He said he had "several anxious moments" between the announcement of the first and second counts, wondering if Kiss' lead would hold up.

    Kiss said he thinks he gained a fair share of Curley's votes because Curley, at a mayoral forum, had said that Kiss would be his personal second choice.

    Advocates have been promoting the idea of instant runoff voting as a way of boosting voter turnout, encouraging more people to run for public office while eliminating the notion that a third-party candidate might be a spoiler.

    Burlington was being closely watched by advocates of various election reforms because no other community currently chooses its chief executive using such a system. A small city in Michigan will start using the practice soon, some cities in Washington state have been given the option of using it and San Francisco already has elected some city officials under the sytem.

    Although small itself, Burlington got attention because it's the largest city in Vermont and because it was the hometown of Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, a supporter of instant runoff voting who cast his ballot Tuesday morning.

    Kiss will be assuming the mayor's office from Democrat Peter Clavelle, who is retiring. The new mayor assumes office the first Monday in April.

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