Illinois Poll Shows Support for IRV
FairVote, in partnership with the Midwest Democracy Center and Roosevelt University,on Feb. 20-22, 2004 conducted a telephone poll in Illinois heading into the state's March 16 primary. The poll included several questions directly about instant runoff voting.

Here is a preliminary review of results. There also was a news article in the Daily Herald (IL).

Our poll was done with 550 Democrats and 550 Republicans. We asked for second and third choices in both the U.S. Senate primaries (each major party has large fields of candidates), in the Democratic presidential primary and, for Republicans, for president in the general election.

We asked four questions measuring support for instant runoff voting. Here are the results. Note the strongest support was for using IRV for general elections for the President.

1. In some previous primary elections, the winner has earned less than 50% of the vote because votes are spread among several candidates. Are you comfortable with the current way of voting, which can result in a
non-majority winner, or would you like to see changes that would better assure that the winner is supported by more than 50% of primary voters?
         Comfortable with current way of voting-  54%
         Would like to see changes - 41%
         Don't know - 5%

2. In some parts of the United States, voters can pick both a first-choice candidate and a second-choice so that its easier to know which candidate has majority support. Would you like to have the option to pick a first-choice candidate and a second-choice candidate when you vote in Illinois primaries?
         Yes - 47.0%
         No  - 46.5%
         Not sure - 5%

3. Would you like to have this option when electing mayors and local elected officials?
         Yes  - 44%
         No  - 51%
         Not sure  - 5%

4. When electing the U.S. President, each state has a certain number of Electoral College votes. In Illinois, all the Electoral College votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in the popular election. Would you like a second choice option to better ensure that the winner of Illinois Electoral College votes has the majority support of Illinois voters?
          Yes - 50%
          No - 41%
          Not sure  - 9%

* Fully one-third of voters admit to being likely to switch from their favorite choice in the primary if they perceive that candidate would not have a chance to win. That shows the self-fulfilling power of voter perception that can boost  the power of the media and of polling and increase the odds for candidates who have the resources to spend money early and get attention as a front-runner.

* The survey of second choices had useful nuggets, showing an unofficial alliance among supporters of the top two front-running Democrats in the Senate primary -- which could lead to attacks between those campaigns, as they're going after similar voters -- and showing just how solid John Kerry's support now is in the Democratic presidential race.

* You can see the full survey here. Also posted there is FairVote's initial analysis, done in conjunction with James Lewis of Roosevelt University

Illinois Drive to Revive Cumulative Voting

In 1999 the Institute for Government and Public Affairs (IGPA) at the University of Illinois received a major grant to conduct a study of the impact of the state's conversion from cumulative voting to single-member districts in 1980. The IGPA formed a task force to analyze different electoral systems and make recommendations. Co-chaired by former Republican governor Jim Edgar and former Democratic Congressman and federal judge Abner Mikva, the task force members included leading state legislators and civic leaders.

The task force has called for reviving cumulative voting, and the Institute for Government and Public Affairs has issued an excellent report about their deliberations and the history of cumulative voting in the state. The Illinois story is a testimony to the impact of even very modest full representation plans. In this case, it still required close to 25% of the vote to win a seat in a in three-seat district, but this change was significant for a broader range of political forces to participate in elections, win representation and contribute to good policy-making.

Read the executive summary of the report here (pdf)
'Instant Runoff' idea is gaining momentum

By Janet Lundquist
Published May 30th 2006 in The Herald News
A push is on across the country for local and state governments to adopt Instant Runoff Voting, a method that supporters say ensures a candidate is elected with a majority of the votes.

National organizations such as and regional groups like have promoted IRV for years.

Now Will County Green Party founder Tim Tacker would like to see his hometown of Plainfield — and the rest of the state — use Instant Runoff Voting for its municipal elections.

In Instant Runoff Voting, people rank candidates first, second and third instead of voting for one person. If nobody has a majority (51 percent) of the votes once the ballots are counted, the candidate with the least votes is thrown out and the ballots are recounted.
Each voter's ballot counts as one vote for the highest-ranked candidate they picked who is still in the race.

The process is continued until one candidate has a majority of the votes.

Instant Runoff Voting helps eliminate the "spoiler" effect, Tacker said, where a third candidate draws votes from another candidate that may have been voters' second choice — which some say happened in the 2000 election with George Bush, Al Gore and Ralph Nader.

"I believe in majority elections," said Tacker, who applied for a vacant trustee seat last year but was not appointed. "I think Plainfield was a good example. We had a number of candidates (for mayor) ... and as I watched this election unfold, I thought it was a good time to bring it up."

There were five candidates for mayor of Plainfield last spring, including current Trustees Michael Collins and Paul Fay and then-acting Mayor Kathy O'Connell. Waldorf won the contest by 23 votes, with about 22 percent of the vote.

Better voter turnout

Elections using IRV have had better voter turnout and more positive campaigns, Tacker said. Candidates try to appeal to all voters, not just their party faithful, so they tend to avoid negative attacks on their opponents.

The voting method has also been criticized

The Illinois General Assembly has introduced IRV bills for several years, which have more co-sponsors each year but have not been passed, Tacker said. He said he is not aware of any Illinois municipalities that have used IRV, but added that is likely because officials simply aren't aware of the option.

The Illinois Municipal Code states the candidate with the highest number of votes is the person elected to that office. In September 2005, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan wrote an opinion that a home-rule municipality may adopt instant runoff voting by a referendum vote, which would then supersede the state election code and municipal code. Plainfield became a home rule community after a special census last year counted more than 25,000 residents.

Village officials are interested in the idea and have asked Tacker to give them more information. The county's current optical scan voting technology would work with an IRV system, Tacker said.