U.S. Bernie Sanders

Testimony to the Vermont Senate Government Operations Committee, March 15 2007:

I'll be very brief. Let me just say a couple words. I think as elected officials, one of our obligations is to do everything that we can to expand democracy to bring more people into the political process; make sure that there's serious debate about the issues; to make sure that every vote is counted accurately -- not a problem in Vermont but certainly a problem around the country.

In terms of the issues that we're dealing with today I think there are two main issues. Number 1, I believe that we feel better about the situation when we know that the person who is elected ends up having a majority of the votes. And one of the problems that has existed in Vermont for many many years is that if we have a number of candidates running for governor -- I was once involved in that situation in '86 -- it turns out that the legislature is obligated to elect that person. And I think there's some concern that is would be a disaster if the legislature ended up electing a person who did not get more votes than other candidates on election day. And Instant Runoff addresses that issue.

There's another issue that I think is equally important. And all of us as elected officials have heard people say, "You know, I'm not going to vote, or I'm not really enthusiastic about the elections, because I really want to vote for candidate A, and I think candidate A can't win. And if I vote for candidate A, then candidate C, the person I least want to be elected, is likely to win. I'm going to be quote unquote wasting my vote. So I'm not going to vote, or vote with a lack of enthusiasm", and I think that's a serious problem. We want people to go into the voting booth and think, "I'm really excited about my candidate, and even if my first choice can't win, I want the whole world to know that I agree with his or her position on the issues, and I hope that in years to come that candidate will get more support. I'm enthusiastic about candidate A. But if candidate A doesn't win, I'm going to cast my second ballot for candidate B, because I really don't want candidate C. And I think Instant Runoff allows people more options in that sense. It allows people to vote for what they really want without worrying about the possibility of them getting what they really don't want.

So count me in as somebody who strongly supports Instant Runoff. I know that is has worked well in Burlington in the last mayoral election. Many people felt pretty good about it there. And we know that is has also worked well in California, Minnesota, Maryland, and other areas as well. So I just want to congratulate the committee for taking a hard look at this important issue and I hope you'll give it serious consideration.  

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