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0000017a-15d9-d736-a57f-17ff8cfb0000NHPR's coverage of the 2014 midterm elections, local and national primaries. Click here for voter resources and mapsClick here for the schedule of debates in the congressional, US Senate, and gubernatorial races. (Oct. 20-23)Click here to hear all eight of our Rudman Center Conversations with the Candidates.Click here to hear our All Things Considered conversations with primary candidates in races for U.S. House, U.S. Senate and Governor.Primary 2014 Results:State-Level Results | Town-Level ResultsMeet the CandidatesGovernor: Maggie Hassan* | Walt HavensteinU.S. Senate: Scott Brown | Jeanne Shaheen*U.S. House, 1st District: Frank Guinta | Carol Shea-Porter*U.S. House, 2nd District: Marilinda Garcia | Ann McLane Kuster*[*Denotes incumbent]NHPR's Election 2014 coverage is sponsored in part by Altus Investment Group, Bergeron Technical Services, Goff Wilson, and Rath Young Pignatelli.

In Vermont, Amendment Would Allow Gubernatorial Candidate To Win Without Majority


Longtime Washington County Sen. Bill Doyle says he'll propose a constitutional amendment to make it less likely that lawmakers will be asked to elect a governor in the future. Doyle says the results of this year's election show why his amendment is needed.  

On Thursday, all 180 lawmakers will receive a ballot to determine who will be the next governor of Vermont. This will happen because the Vermont Constitution calls for a legislative vote whenever the winning candidate fails to receive a majority in the November election. This year Democratic incumbent Peter Shumlin won 46 percent of the vote and Republican Scott Milne got 45 percent.

Doyle was first elected to the Senate in 1968. Since that time, on a number of occasions, he's sponsored a constitutional amendment to change the current system. Under Doyle's amendment, lawmakers would not be involved if the winning candidate received at least 40 percent of the vote. He thinks it makes a lot of sense because Vermont is one of just two states in the country that maintains a two-year term for governor.

Washington County Sen. Bill Doyle will propose a Constitutional amendment to make it less likely that lawmakers will be asked to elect a governor in the future.

"It's in the best interests of the state that we know after elections who wins; that would be the ideal,” said Doyle. “The present situation - and over the years - we haven't known who would be the governor for two or three months. I don't think that helps the process of government."

Several states require runoff elections when no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote. Doyle doesn't like that approach because he says far fewer voters turn out for these special elections.

"You've got a different clientele voting the second time around,” said Doyle. “Why not just go with the top vote getter who gets 40 percent? That would be preferable to a runoff."  

A group supporting Milne has spent $30,000 on a TV ad campaign urging lawmakers to vote for the Republican candidate. Milne has also bought web ads and used social media to make the case for his election.

Shumlin says this process is not good for democracy in Vermont and he strongly supports Doyle's amendment.

"If we enter an atmosphere in Vermont's democracy where you run two campaigns, the first one to try to get 50 percent and the second one to try to convince folks that the person who gets the most votes shouldn't win, I think that's a really dangerous precedent,” said Shumlin. “I think 40 percent makes good sense."

Because the constitutional amendment process requires votes by two separately elected Legislatures and approval by voters in a statewide referendum, Doyle says the earliest it could go into place is 2018.

Copyright 2015 WVPS-FM. To see more, visit

Bob is a veteran Vermont journalist, specializing in political reporting. He is based in VPR’s Capital Bureau located across the street from Vermont’s Statehouse. Prior to joining VPR full time in 2002, Bob ran the Vermont News Service for 21 years. The service provided daily local news for eleven stations, including VPR. Bob started the News Service following a stint as news director for WNCS.
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