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OPINION: Second Place Doesn’t Make You Governor


Candidate Scott Milne, who finished a close second to Peter Shumlin in the 2014 Vermont gubernatorial race, announced today (Dec. 8)  that he will ask state legislators to elect him when they take office in January. Milne finished with 45.1 percent of the vote, compared with Shumlin’s 46.4 percent.

Vermont’s Constitution requires legislators to choose the winner in races for governor, lieutenant governor or treasurer where no candidate gets a majority of votes cast.

“This was a close race, and no doubt a tough one to lose,” said Paul Burns, executive director of the nonpartisan Vermont Public Interest Research Group. “But it’s been over a month now, and it’s time to recognize that finishing second does not make you the winner. It would be an affront to democracy if Mr. Milne — the undisputed second place finisher — were chosen to be the next governor of Vermont.”

VPIRG was one of the groups that helped to pass legislation (S.31) in Vermont in 2011 calling for a National Popular Vote in presidential elections. The legislation passed 85-44 in the House, and 20-10 in the Senate.

VPIRG also supports instant runoff voting as a means of ensuring that candidates for top offices in Vermont have the support of a majority of voters. In the absence of IRV or another form of run-off, VPIRG believes that the winner of a race is the person who gets the most votes.

“This is serious business,” said Burns. “It’s not some sort of child’s contest where everyone’s a winner just for playing. It’s about who will be the next governor of Vermont. And under any common understanding of democracy and fair play, that person should be the person who won the most votes.”

Paul Burns, Executive Director of VPIRG