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)
Poll shows support for 'instant runoff'

By Eric Krol Daily
Published February 27th 2004 in Daily Herald

With 15 candidates running for U.S. Senate next month, it's likely both the Democratic and Republican nominees will have advanced to the November election without securing a majority of the vote.

That lack of a popular mandate could be eliminated if Illinois switched to "instant runoff" voting, a measure pushed by the Midwest Center for Democracy, a nonprofit, non-partisan election reform group.

In an instant runoff process, voters could rank their choices in order instead of merely voting for one candidate. If no candidate got better than 50 percent of the vote, the first go-around, elections officials would add up voters' second choices and so on until a candidate reached a majority.

"People often feel torn they only have one vote," said Dan Johnson-Weinberger, director of the center, which also wants a return to the cumulative voting, three-member Illinois House districts voters scrapped more than 20 years ago. "But most importantly, this system requires a candidate to earn a majority of the votes to secure the nomination in their party."

The instant runoff is used in Ireland and Australia, and it's gaining momentum in Minnesota and Washington, where measures have passed through one chamber of each state's legislature.

Weinberger's group commissioned a U.S. Senate poll to test its theory. As it turns out, both Democrat Blair Hull and Republican Jack Ryan amassed the biggest number of both first- and second-choice votes in the poll if the system were in place.

In Springfield, a measure sponsored by state Rep. Paul Froehlich, a Schaumburg Republican, would allow places like Aurora, Naperville and Chicago, which elect council members from single-member districts, to use an instant runoff system. Chicago already has a runoff system for aldermanic primaries in which no candidate gets more than 50 percent, but the elections take place weeks apart. Froehlich's measure is buried in committee, however.

Weinberger said that at this point, it's not so much that there's opposition to the instant runoff system as much as most people just don't know about it.

It might be a while before any momentum builds, given the example Weinberger cites when asked for a state race the system would have affected. Weinberger said the system could have changed the result of the tightly contested 2002 Democratic governor primary. He said many of third-place finisher Roland Burris' voters might have listed as their second choice Paul Vallas, who finished a close second to Gov. Rod Blagojevich. If that were the case and the runoff were in place, Vallas might be governor today, he said.