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)
Why Aurora needs a mayoral primary
The elimination of the primary election, when there are more than two candidates, does not serve the best interests of local voters

By Sherry Tatar
Published July 31st 2008 in The Beacon News

State law now allows cities to opt out of holding a primary election in cases where there are four or fewer candidates running. Common sense dictates that if there are more than two candidates in Aurora's nonpartisan mayoral election that a primary is both desirable and necessary.

Omitting the primary election would certainly save money, but is this fair?

Some residents might be glad about the cost savings, while others might be happy due to how they believe it would affect their candidate of choice in next spring's election. However, we must look at this change for what it is. It is a change in the way votes are counted and whether your vote will matter. This change is not about money or the effect on your candidate, it is about the future of our votes. Even though the law gives this option, we need to look ahead to what this means for all future elections.

Aurora's mayor holds an important position in city government, being both the top elected official and in charge of day-to-day operations. This is quite different from the mayor's position in a city with a hired city manager to oversee the city's ongoing business.

The Aurora Election Commission should not wait until December to make a decision based on how many candidates have filed petitions. Rather, the commission should decide once and for all that anytime there are three or more candidates for a mayoral election then a primary is necessary and will be held.

With our established system of voting, the winner of the general election must win more than 50 percent of the vote. We are assured this winner has received the true majority of the voting public. With the elimination of the primary, there is no such assurance. If there are four candidates, the winner only needs to get more than 25 percent of the votes. For a position as important as that of mayor, this does not seem right and should not be acceptable to the voters.

History has shown that a candidate who comes in second in the primary could win the general election, but this could never be the case with the elimination of the primary. With no primary, votes against an incumbent or for change would be split among various candidates, and some voters would not have the chance for their vote to be counted in the final decision.

If it is necessary to change our customary method of electing a mayor, there is a fair way to eliminate the primary election and the cost associated with it. That would be to have an instant run-off election. In this type of election, voters would rank the candidates in their order of preference. The candidate with the fewest votes would have his or her votes redistributed to each voter's next-choice candidate, and this would be done again if necessary until one candidate has more than 50 percent of the votes or has the highest number of votes when only two candidates remain. This voting system is being used in various places within and outside of the U.S.

Some arguments in favor of instant runoff voting include a reduction in cost, a reduction in negative campaigning, a reduced third-party "spoiler effect," and the likelihood of increased choices for voters. However, we are not set up to have this sort of election and there could be some opposition to this new-for-Aurora type of voting. We already have the equipment for (our current system) and know that having a primary and a general election is something that local voters find acceptable.

The instant runoff voting method is covered extensively at and the site notes some Illinois legislation to allow instant runoff voting to improve the voting rights for overseas voters, including those in the military.

I urge the Aurora Election Commission to either announce its plans now to hold a primary election whenever there are more than two candidates, or to set up a system that allows instant run-off voting. Simply eliminating the primary election does not serve the best interests of local voters.