2009 Burlington mayoral election

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In March 2009, the city of Burlington, Vermont held a mayoral election. Vermont Progressive Party candidate Bob Kiss was elected, despite a 54% majority of voters expressing a preference for Democratic Party candidate Andy Montroll over Kiss.[1][2][3] As a result of the surprise outcome of the election, Burlington voters narrowly voted to repeal IRV, reverting to their prior system of holding a runoff if no candidate receives over 40% of the vote.

Unlike Burlington's first IRV mayoral election in 2006, the mayoral race in 2009 was decided in three rounds. Bob Kiss won the election, receiving 28.8% of the vote in the first round, and receiving 48.0% in the final round (which made up 51.5% of the ballots which had not been exhausted), defeating final challenger Kurt Wright (who received more votes than Kiss in the earlier rounds, but only received 45.2% in the final round).


The city of Burlington, Vermont held a mayoral election on March 3, 2009. This was the second mayoral election since the city's 2005 approval of instant-runoff voting (IRV).[4] A candidate from the Vermont Progressive Party (Bob Kiss) had won the first election under the system in 2006. In 2009, he was running for reelection.[5]

The official results of the 2009 election were as follows:[6][7]

First round

In the first round, Dan Smith and Jason Simpson were eliminated, as well as the all of the write-in candidates. There were four ballots that did not have preferences listed, so they were placed in the "exhausted pile" to indicate that those ballots would play no active role in later rounds. Ballots for Smith, Simpson and the write-in candidates were transferred to the second preference on those ballots for the second round (or were moved into the "exhausted pile" in the second round).

Candidate Party First round


First round

pct. (%)

Kurt Wright Republican Party 2,951 32.9% Ballots preferring Kiss, Wright, and Montroll advance to the second round.
Bob Kiss Progressive Party 2,585 28.8%
Andy Montroll Democratic Party


Dan Smith (independent) 1,306 14.5% Ballots preferring Smith, Simpson and the write-in candidate were distributed to Kiss, Wright, and Montroll in the second round according to the first remaining preference on these ballots.
James Simpson Green Party 35 0.4%
Write-in 36 0.4%
(exhausted pile) 4 0.0%
Totals 8,980 100.0%

Second round

In the second round, Simpson's, Smith's and the write-in candidates' ballots were transferred to Kiss, Wright, or Montroll (depending on the voter's greatest remaining preference). Montroll had the fewest first-remaining preferences, and thus was eliminated prior to the third round, with Montroll's ballots being distributed to Kiss and Wright according to the final remaining preference on ballots preferring Montroll.

Candidate Party Transfers from

first round

Second round


Second round

pct. (%)

Kurt Wright Republican Party +343 3,294 36.7% Ballots preferring Kiss and Wright advanced to the third round.
Bob Kiss Progressive Party +396 2,981 33.2%
Andy Montroll Democratic Party +491 2,554 28.4% Ballots preferring Montroll were distributed to Kiss and Wright in the third round according to final remaining preference on these ballots.
(exhausted pile) +147 151 1.7%
Totals 8,980 100.0%

Third round

In the third round, Montroll's ballots from the second round were distributed to Kiss and Wright. Since many Montroll voters supported Kiss rather than Wright as their final remaining preference, Kiss pulled into the lead in the third round. Because 6.7% of voters didn't express a preference between Kiss and Wright (with their preferred candidate eliminated in prior rounds, and their ballots placed in the "exhausted pile"), Kiss prevailed over Wright with a plurality of 48.0%.

Candidate Party Transfers from

second round

Third round


Third round

pct. (%)

Bob Kiss Progressive Party +1332 4,313 48.0%
Kurt Wright Republican Party +767 4,061 45.2%
(exhausted pile) +455 606 6.7%
Totals 8,980 100.0%


Unlike in the city's first IRV mayoral election three years prior, however, Kiss was neither the plurality winner nor the Condorcet winner.[8][9] This led to a controversy about the use of IRV in mayoral elections,[10] culminating in a successful 2010 citizen's initiative repealing IRV's use by a vote of 52% to 48%.[11][12][13] Ranked-choice voting would thus remain unused in Burlington until 2021, when voters again adopted IRV for all city council elections (but not mayoral ones) by a vote of 64% to 36%.[14]

Pairwise results

This is the results of the Burlington, Vermont mayoral election of 2009 had they used a pairwise method such as the Copeland method:[15][16]

Andy Montroll

(Democratic Party)

4 wins and no losses (4-0) 4 Wins ↓
Bob Kiss

(Vermont Progressive Party)

3 wins, 1 loss (3-1) 1 Loss

3 Wins

4064 (Montroll) –

3476 (Kiss)

Kurt Wright

(Republican Party)

2 wins, 2 losses (2-2) 2 Losses

2 Wins

4313 (Kiss) –

4061 (Wright)

4597 (Montroll) –

3664 (Wright)

Dan Smith (Independent) 1 win, 3 losses (1-3) 3 Losses

1 Win

3971 (Wright) –

3793 (Smith)

3944 (Kiss) –

3576 (Smith)

4570 (Montroll) –

2997 (Smith)

James Simpson

(Green Party)

0 wins, 4 losses (0-4) 4 Losses 5570 (Smith) –

721 (Simpson)

5270 (Wright) –

1310 (Simpson)

5514 (Kiss) –

844 (Simpson)

6262 (Montroll) –

591 (Simpson)

This leads to an overall preference ranking of:[16]

  1. Montroll – defeats all candidates below, including Kiss (4,064 to 3,476)
  2. Kiss – defeats all candidates below, including Wright (4,313 to 4,061)
  3. Wright – defeats all candidates below, including Smith (3,971 to 3,793)
  4. Smith – defeats Simpson (5,570 to 721) and the write-in candidates

Montroll was therefore preferred over Kiss by 54% of voters, preferred over Wright by 56% of voters, over Smith by 60%, and over Simpson by 91% of voters.[17][18]

Plurality (a.k.a. First Past the Post)

Since voters are only allowed to provide their top preference in the "first-past-the-post" (plurality) voting system, it s likely that Kurt Wright would have won this election had all voters naively voted for their top preference

Top preference
Kurt Wright (Republican) 2951
Bob Kiss (Progressive) 2585
Andy Montroll (Democrat) 2063
Dan Smith (Independent) 1306
James Simpson (Green) 35
Write-in 36


visual depiction of pairwise results in 2009
Source file: File:Burlington2009election-infosheet.svg. Original file history: https://wiki.electorama.com/wiki/File:Burlington2009election-infosheet.svg#filehistory
hashtag "#Visual depiction of IRV results"

To the right is an infographic which attempts to clearly depict the pairwise results in a tidy SVG diagram. Well, actually, it's a scaled down PNG, so it's a little hard to read. If you click it. it'll expand.

Here is a link to the w:SVG version in a few different forms:


Raw data

Raw data: 2009 Burlington, Vermont Mayoral Election data Pairwise tallies for each of the candidates are available on the following subpages:


  • Ranked Choice Ballots in Burlington — creator: Sygnol; date: August 12, 2019 "Data visualization of Burlington Vermont's controversial 2009 Mayoral election, comparing results from the best known Ranked Choice Voting tabulation systems: Instant Runoff, Condorcet and Borda (Abbreviated version of the original video)."

Offsite analysis


  1. Gierzynski, Anthony; Hamilton, Wes; Smith, Warren D. (March 2009). "Burlington Vermont 2009 IRV mayoral election". RangeVoting.org. Retrieved 1 October 2017. Montroll was favored over Republican Kurt Wright 56% to 44% ... and over Progressive Bob Kiss 54% to 46% ... In other words, in voting terminology, Montroll was a 'beats-all winner,' also called a 'Condorcet winner' ... However, in the IRV election, Montroll came in third! ... voters preferred Montroll over every other candidate ... Montroll is the most-approved
  2. Ornstein, Joseph T.; Norman, Robert Z. (2014-10-01). "Frequency of monotonicity failure under Instant Runoff Voting: estimates based on a spatial model of elections". Public Choice. 161 (1–2): 1–9. doi:10.1007/s11127-013-0118-2. ISSN 0048-5829. Although the Democrat was the Condorcet winner (a majority of voters preferred him in all two way contests), he received the fewest first-place votes and so was eliminated ... 2009 mayoral election in Burlington, VT, which illustrates the key features of an upward monotonicity failure
  3. Lewyn, Michael (2012). "Two Cheers for Instant Runoff Voting". Phoenix L. Rev. 6: 117. SSRN 2276015. election where Democratic candidate for mayor was Condorcet winner but finished third behind Republican and 'Progressive'
  4. 4. How did this change to IRV come about? Over 64% of Burlington voters voted in favor of the IRV Charter amendment in March, 2005, and it went into effect on May 12, 2005, when the governor signed the ratification bill, H.505, which had been passed by both the House and Senate.
  5. "Mayor Bob Kiss". City of Burlington. Archived from the original on 2007-11-29. Retrieved 2007-11-16.
  6. "ChoicePlus Pro 2009 Burlington Mayor Round Detail Report". 2011-07-25. Archived from the original on 2011-07-25. Retrieved 2018-01-03.
  7. "ChoicePlus Pro 2009 Burlington Mayor Round 4 Report". March 3, 2009. Archived from the original on 2011-07-25. Retrieved 2011-02-28.
  8. "Point/Counterpoint: Terry Bouricius Attempts To Rip Professor Gierzynski A New One Over Instant Runoff Voting Controversy (Now With All New Gierzynski Update!)". Archived from the original on July 26, 2011. Retrieved December 30, 2010.
  9. "Burlington Vermont 2009 IRV mayoral election". RangeVoting.org. Retrieved 2016-04-01.
  10. Baruth, Philip (March 12, 2009). "Voting Paradoxes and Perverse Outcomes: Political Scientist Tony Gierzynski Lays Out A Case Against Instant Runoff Voting". Vermont Daily Briefing. Archived from the original on July 26, 2011.
  11. "Burlington voters repeal IRV". Wcax.com. March 2, 2010. Archived from the original on 2016-04-09. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  12. "Instant run-off voting experiment ends in Burlington : Rutland Herald Online". Rutlandherald.com. 2010-04-27. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2016-04-01.
  13. "Official Results Of 2010 Annual City Election" (PDF). City of Burlington. March 2, 2010.
  14. "Burlington, Vermont, Question 4, Ranked-Choice Voting Amendment (March)". Ballotpedia.org. Retrieved 18 April 2021.
  15. Olson, Brian (2009). "2009 Burlington Mayor IRV Failure". bolson.org. Retrieved 1 October 2017. This is an IRV failure. The IRV result is clearly not what people actually wanted. More people liked Montroll over Kiss than the other way around, but IRV elected the loser.
  16. a b "2009 Burlington, Vermont Mayoral Election". Electowiki. Retrieved 2018-01-03.
  17. "IRV and Core Support". The Center for Election Science. Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  18. "Burlington Vermont 2009 IRV mayoral election". RangeVoting.org. Retrieved 2016-04-01.