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)
Frerichs' bill to help absentee voters passes

By Kate Clements
Published May 9th 2007 in The News-Gazette (IL)
SPRINGFIELD The Illinois Senate on Tuesday passed legislation to help make sure Illinois voters who are out of the country for military, personal or business reasons can have a say in local elections.

SB 439, sponsored by state Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Gifford, would allow cities to use special ranked ballots for overseas absentee voters in municipal and township elections.

While there is plenty of time between the statewide primary and general elections, voting rights advocates said there was not enough time between the February and April local election dates to determine the primary winners, certify a general election ballot, print and mail the absentee ballot overseas, and get the marked ballot back by mail in time to be counted.

"Those voters are basically disenfranchised because it's an administrative impossibility," said Dan Johnson-Weinberger, a lobbyist for Fair Vote.

Frerichs said his bill could put an end to that problem by allowing election authorities to send overseas absentee voters two ballots at the same time.

The first would be a regular absentee ballot for the primary election. The second would be a special ballot allowing voters to rank all of the candidates in each race in order of preference. If the highest-ranked candidate made it out of the primary, that person would be counted as the voter's general election choice. If not, election authorities would count the next-highest ranked candidate to have advanced.

"A ranked ballot system could solve the time constraint issue that is keeping our overseas servicemen and women from getting and returning their ballots on time," Frerichs said. "This is an innovative solution that allows all voices to be heard in the local voting process regardless of their location."

Louisiana, Arkansas and South Carolina already have ranked voting for military and overseas voters, and a referendum to adopt the system in Springfield was approved by more than 90 percent of that city's voters last month. If Frerichs' bill becomes law, Illinois municipalities would be able to make the switch by ordinance rather than referendum.

State Sen. Pamela Althoff, R-McHenry, called the bill "an excellent idea," and the measure was approved unanimously.

To become law, it still needs approval from the House and Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

"If enacted, this legislation will end the practice of overseas voters losing their right to participate in local elections," Johnson-Weinberger said.