- Associated Press - Monday, January 5, 2015

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - A quirk in the Vermont Constitution comes to center stage this week as 180 legislators vote on who should be the state’s next governor.

And the incumbent, who could be ousted in Thursday’s election, voiced support Monday for a proposed amendment to the state Constitution that would make such circumstances much less likely in the future.

A provision in the state’s founding document says that if no candidate for governor, lieutenant governor or treasurer receives an outright majority of the vote - 50 percent plus one ballot - lawmakers decide the outcome by secret ballot two months later when they convene in January.

In a seven-candidate field on Nov. 4, Gov. Peter Shumlin got 46.4 percent of the vote, compared with 45.1 for Republican Scott Milne. By tradition, that 2,434-vote margin would be enough to hand Shumlin a third two-year term, and in most recent such elections, the second-place finisher concedes.

But against long odds, Milne is taking his fight to a Legislature dominated by Shumlin’s fellow Democrats. He is urging lawmakers to vote as their constituents did in each district, which could result in a 90-90 tie when secret ballots cast by the 150 House members and 30 senators are counted. Milne argues that a majority of those voting in November wanted a change at the top of state government.

Shumlin has “wasted four years’ worth of opportunity to get our economy on track and it’s time to give somebody else the reins,” Milne said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Shumlin argues that the candidate who got the most votes in November - in this case, him - should win. At a news conference Monday, he said that if Milne were to pull out an upset victory on Thursday, government would be “paralyzed” as the new administration scrambled to staff up and write a fiscal 2016 budget, which is to be presented to lawmakers later this month.

“I mean, I’ve got to tell you how hard we’re working here to put together a sensible budget,” Shumlin said. “We’ve put together a team before we got here, but we’d be scrambling to put a team together. Government would literally be paralyzed while this candidate tried suddenly to pull it all together in a short period of time.”

Shumlin also said he would support an amendment to the state Constitution lowering the threshold for election so that a plurality winner who received more than 40 percent of the popular vote would be elected and there would be no need for lawmakers to weigh in.

“I think that that’s a wise thing to do,” he said. “I think it’s good for Vermont’s democracy.”

Milne called his contesting the election “a once in 150-years event,” and said he would not rush into amending the Constitution. “It seems to be a little bit of a rush to judgment right now, but it’s worthy of consideration.”

Sen. William Doyle, R-Washington, Vermont’s longest serving legislator and a backer of the amendment, said he first proposed it in 1974.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide