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)
Plan Splits Area Legislators: cumulative voting dropped in 1980

By Myke Feinman
Published August 5th 2001 in Ottawa Times (IL)
A decades-old voting system gave both parties a say in government ñ or hurt teamwork and created "deadwood" legislators, depending on whom you ask. State Sen. Patrick Welch, D-Peru, opposes the system. Reps. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, and Mary K. O'Brien, D-Coal City, support it. The Illinois Assembly on Political Representation and Alternative Electoral Systems, led by former Gov. Jim Edgar and former federal Judge Abner Mikva, wants to bring back "cumulative voting." That was the decades-old system in use through 1980 that gave people multiple votes they could use for a single candidate or spread out among several to elect three representatives for each legislative district. The system- at the time the only one of its kind in the nation- was dropped in favor of a winner-take-all approach in 1980 when voters also cut the number of House members by one-third. At the time of cumulative voting, there were 177 representatives in Springfield. Now there are 118. "In this district here, my father, Richard Mautino, was under cumulative voting." Frank Mautino said. "At that time his district was also a Republican district. There were two Republicans and one Democrat. That way both parties always had a say." Mautino said the way in which the change was sold to the public was that eliminating cumulative voting would save the state money. "It didn't happen," Mautino said. "What was done to replace representatives was expansion of partisan staffs." Mautino said he did not believe reverting to the old system would pass because changing to the present system created a concentration of power in the leadership ñ and they won't give up their power. "It created power in the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate, "Mautino said. " Prior to that, politically, you did not have to go to the Speaker or to the President of the Senate (to introduce a bill). You could bring ideas forward and try to convince people in both parties. By returning to cumulative voting, it would decentralize that power. People in power do not want to give it up." Welch, who is assistant minority leader in the Senate, agrees with Mautino about the savings, but not the system. "It causes factions within the majority as well as the minority groups," Welch said. "I agree it doesn't save us money. But the part of the argument that it has lead to a concentration of power in leaders ñ I don't think that follows." Welch defeated Betty Hoxey, Marseilles, for the Senate seat in 1982, saying that was the first time Hoxey ran for the Senate in a two-candidate race. Hoxey had been a state representative running with two other candidates under the old system. Rep. Mary K. O'Brien, D-Coal City, believes cumulative voting would be good for voters and bring government closer to the people. "I just think that the closer you are and the more there are legislators, there's always strength in numbers," O'Brien said Tuesday. "The closer government is to you, the more say you have in government. Where legislative districts are half the size of senate districts, people seem to know their representatives better than their senator. People want cooperation. If you look around, our legislators in our area work very well together." Welch countered that the old system gave seats to legislators who did nothing for their constituents. "You get a lot more deadwood with the system," Welch said. "Number one, you've got people running to be the second candidate to be the minority party in the district. What we used to have in this district is the minority party with two candidates that split the ticket. That hinders teamwork."