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)
Chicago's Special Election is a Waste: Fill Vacancies in One Election, Not Two

By Dan Johnson-Weinberger
Published April 7th 2009 in Huffington Post
Today's special general election between Mike Quigley, Rosanna Pulido and Matt Reichel is a waste of time, money and resources. Taxpayers will shell out almost two million dollars to hold an election in the state's 5th Congressional District with only three names on the ballot. And the result of the election - the Democratic nominee is going to win - has been a foregone conclusion for a month.

The seat has been vacant since January. Meanwhile, during the debate on the federal stimulus and budget, the 600,000 people of the 5th CD have been without a voice in the House. That's not good, because we have literally lost our seat at the congressional table while federal policy is made. Our election laws should fill a vacancy as quickly as possible to minimize the loss of our political clout.

In this case, the people spoke clearly last month in the primary election: they want a Democrat to represent them in the House.

Look at the numbers from the March 3rd primary: Mike Quigley, Democrat, earned 12,118 votes. Rosanna Pulido, Republican, earned 1,006 while Matt Reichel, Green, earned 166. That's 91% for Quigley, 8% for Pulido and 1% for Reichel. That's a landslide. So why are we going through the motion of another election today between these three people when Quigley has already earned 91% of the vote last month? Why can't we give the people what they already voted for?

Illinois should fill a congressional vacancy in one election, not two, particularly when the results are so clear. There are several ways to do it. We could replicate Chicago's municipal elections where there is a runoff only if no candidate earns a majority of the vote. We could count a vote in the primary election as a straight ticket vote in the general election for whoever the nominee will be. Or we could use Irish-style instant runoff voting where voters rank all the candidates.

But whatever the method, we should absolutely not continue to waste two million dollars and minimize our own clout by waiting a month to finally elect a Representative in a second election when we could get the job done in one day.

Dan Johnson-Weinberger is an attorney. He lobbies for election reforms for FairVote.