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)
Political game on road to President XLIV far from super

By Burt Constable
Published January 22nd 2008 in Daily Herald
America has a wonderful method of winnowing the field of hopefuls until we are left with two football teams that will play in the Super Bowl. We're not nearly as efficient when it comes to our system of selecting the final candidates to run for the White House.

In Sunday's NFL playoff action, the New York Giants won a spot in the ultimate game without any consideration of whether that team had a better chance than Green Bay of defeating New England in Super Bowl XLII. No referees changed their minds about calls because Packers quarterback Brett Favre showed some emotion. The Giants' Eli Manning didn't have to win Punt, Pass and Kick competitions in Iowa and New Hampshire before being allowed to play in the big game. The Patriots didn't score more points than San Diego only to be denied the Super Bowl because obscure football caucus rules gave the Chargers the nod.

While football features upsets and remarkable comebacks, the general consensus among fans is that the two teams that play in the Super Bowl got there fair and square. The playoffs work.

In politics, we use a primary system to select the candidates fighting for the presidency. How's that work?

"The purpose of primary elections is, in theory, to give voters the best candidates," writes former suburban Congressman John Porter in his new job as a trustee at The Brookings Institution, a not-for-profit public policy think tank in Washington, D.C. "In practice, they are a dismal failure."

Our current primary system is "characterized by excessive partisanship" that "thwarts the fundamental purposes of representative government," writes Porter, a Wilmette Republican who served 21 years in Congress representing the 10th District of northern Cook and eastern Lake counties.

Porter's solution is "instant runoff voting" -- a system that eliminates the concept of "wasted votes" and "spoiler candidates" while "empowering moderate voters."

Say you are a John Edwards fan, and you really don't want Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic nominee. Under our current system, a vote for Edwards could help Clinton beat Barack Obama. If Clinton gets 34 percent of the vote and Obama and Edwards equally split the other 66 percent, Clinton wins even though only a third of voters wanted her.

Under instant runoff voting, voters would rank candidates. Instead of fearing a "wasted vote," Edwards supporters could vote for their candidate and make Obama their second choice. If no candidate gets a majority, the last-place finisher is eliminated and his voters' second-choice votes are counted.

With instant runoff voting, people who voted for third-party candidates such as Ralph Nader or Ross Perot could have seen their votes go to their next favorite candidate. That way, voters eventually would elect a candidate who earned more than 50 percent of the vote.

In 2002, Obama sponsored a bill in the Illinois Senate that would have established instant runoff voting for statewide primary elections, and allowed communities to use it for local elections. That bill died.

Republican John McCain also has voiced support for instant runoff voting.

Former Illinois Congressman John B. Anderson, 85, who ran for president as a third-party candidate in 1980, chairs a nonpartisan electoral reform organization ( that long has championed instant runoff voting.

San Francisco, Minneapolis and other cities use IRV without problems. So does Australia, London and other international communities. It reduces the impact of small, active minorities and returns power to the voters.

"Instant runoff voting can turn U.S. elections from an embarrassment into a much closer representation of the democratic ideal," Porter concludes.

If we had it, it might even be able to give us a President XLIV who turns out to be super.