Two bills face likely veto

03/20/08 5:10PM By Bob Kinzel
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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas and the Legislature are on a collision course regarding two bills that deal with Vermont's election system.

The first bill implements the instant run off voting system in federal races - the second is a new campaign finance reform plan.

Douglas doesn't like either bill and it's likely that he'll veto both of them.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Both bills are set to go to the governor for his review in the next few days following final approval by the House and the Senate.

Because there are concerns that using the instant run off voting system for state races might require a constitutional amendment, the bill applies only to elections for the U.S House and the U.S. Senate.

IRV is used only when no candidate receives 50% of the vote. It allows voters to list candidates in order of preference and if no candidate gets a majority of votes, the top two vote getters remain in the race. Then the second choice preferences for the other candidates on the ballot are tabulated, ultimately giving one of the top two candidates a majority of votes.

Senate Government Operations chairwoman Jeannette White says it's important for candidates to receive a majority of votes to win an election:

(White) "When you truly had a very strong two party system you didn't run into that because you had two parties but now we have in Vermont four parties and often more and I think people are more interested in pursuing independents...and other parties so I think it's just opening everything up."

The governor says he disagrees with the basic concept of the bill:

(Douglas) "I don't support it, it's a hypothetical election it's not one person one vote as I see it I really believe that it's not the kind of change in our electoral system that would be in the state's best interests."

Douglas says he doesn't like the campaign finance reform bill because it limits contributions from political parties to individual candidates. The cap is set at 30 thousand dollars per election for both a state party and a national party:

(Douglas) "Political parties are organized for the sole purpose of supporting their candidates and getting them elected I really don't see why there should be any kind of restriction on their participation."

But White says it's important to include political parties under the scope of the bill:

(White) "Our point is that we want to limit campaign contributions and if we don't limit them then we're not limiting them...in the governor's race he could get 30 thousand dollars from the state party and 30 thousand from the national party so it's a lot less than before but it's still 60 thousand dollars from the party that's a fair amount of money in Vermont."

Based on previous votes, it appears there may be enough support in the Senate to override the governor's veto of both bills but the situation in the House is less clear because the IRV bill passed by only an 18 vote margin.

For VPR News I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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