Today, the Vermont Senate voted 23-7 on Second Reading in favor of legislation to put ranked choice voting in place for Vermont’s 2028 Presidential Primary. The vote included support from Democrat, Republican, and Progressive/Democrat Senators.
The bill (S.32) would also create a summer study committee to investigate and make recommendations on other statewide elections that may be ripe for ranked choice voting (RCV) in 2026. It would also grant authority to cities and towns to adopt RCV in their local elections as soon as 2024.
On Town Meeting Day, 64 percent of Burlington supported a proposed charter change to expand the use of RCV to include mayoral and other elections. Burlington already uses RCV in races for city council.
“Vermont has never shied away from making our elections more accessible, fair and transparent,” said Vermont Secretary of State Sarah Copeland Hanzas. “Ranked Choice Voting gives Vermonters more say in who gets elected. My office looks forward to working with legislators and other stakeholders to make sure voters and municipal officials have all the information they need to participate in and implement Ranked Choice Voting.”
The Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) has been a longtime champion of this legislation. Executive Director Paul Burns celebrated the move in the Senate to take RCV statewide. “This vote in favor of ranked choice voting demonstrates the power of simple, pro-voter reform like this,” Burns said. “Across the political spectrum, we’re finding support for giving voters more choices, holding politicians accountable, and making campaigns less toxic.”
The Senate Government Operations Committee took testimony from a wide range of stakeholders and tailored the legislation carefully to address many interests. In addition to instate entities, the Committee heard from Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows.
“The Senate Government Operations Committee continued efforts to ensure that Vermonters have broad access to the polls and that every vote counts,” said Senator Ruth Hardy (D), Chair of Senate Government Operations. “Through a unanimous tri-partisan vote, the Committee passed S.32 to give towns the option of implementing rank choice voting in 2024 and prepare for statewide ranked choice voting elections in 2026 and 2028” Hardy continued. “I am proud of our Committee’s teamwork with the Secretary of State, the VT Clerk’s Association, the VT League of Cities & Towns, and voting rights advocacy organizations.”
“I am excited for this step forward in building a stronger democracy,” said Senator Tanya Vyhovsky (P/D), Vice-Chair of the Senate Government Operations Committee, and the bill’s floor reporter. “Ranked choice voting is good policy and makes our elections more accessible for voters and for candidates. For voters, it means that less votes are wasted on withdrawn candidates, and the ability to vote on more nuanced issues. For candidates, it can help open the process for more diverse voices and empower more candidates to run on issues-based platforms without worrying about being a spoiler.”
A coalition of businesses and organizations organized in favor of the legislation.
“Vermont Conservation Voters is delighted by today’s strong Senate vote in support of ranked choice voting, S.32. We appreciate the Senate Committee on Government Operations for their leadership on this issue. This bill is a positive step forward on the road to expanding democracy for Vermonters by providing more access to both voters and those who choose to run for elected office,” said Justin Marsh, Political Outreach Director at Vermont Conservation Voters.
Betty Keller, lead advocate for RCV at the League of Women Voters of Vermont said “In Maine and Alaska, legislators would not move forward with this non-partisan, pro-voter issue, and voters had to force the issue with ballot initiatives. The legislative process allows for more discussion, to craft a bill more thoughtfully and carefully. We could be on track to be the first state to implement RCV though the legislative process: another win for voters in Vermont.”
“Ranked choice voting helps strengthen democracy by giving voters more choices, and a stronger voice in elections,” said Dan Fingas, Movement Politics Director at Rights and Democracy. “By giving voters the option to rank candidates, you are empowering voters. People can show up at the polls excited to vote for their favorite candidate and also rank all the candidates they chose to ensure the candidate who best shares the voter’s values wins.”
RCV is one of the fastest growing voting reforms in the nation. As of December 2022, 64 jurisdictions have ranked choice voting in place. This includes two states, Maine and Alaska, that use RCV in state, federal, and presidential elections. Five states used RCV in the 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary.
The bill requires approval once more before heading to the House.