Decatur Herald and Review
Cumulative Voting Gets Second Look
By Ron Ingram
April 28, 2002
Twenty years after cumulative
voting was removed from the Illinois Constitution, the Midwest
Democracy Center in Chicago is working to bring it back.
Legislators and Dan Johnson-Weinberger, the center's director, say
the idea has no chance of making the Nov. 5 ballot. Illinois House
Speaker Michael Madigan opposes the effort, and there is not enough
time to gather the signatures of 500,000 registered voters to
petition the question onto the ballot, Johnson-Weinberger said.
Johnson-Weinberger said he is hopeful that raising awareness of the
issue now will pay future dividends.
Cumulative voting was used to
elect Illinois state representatives from 1870 until 1980. A 1980
citizen initiative led by Patrick Quinn, now the Democratic nominee
for lieutenant governor, got the practice voted out, but the change
could not take effect until 1982.
Under cumulative voting, each
person had three votes which could be cast for one candidate or 1.5
votes for each of two candidates or one vote for each of three
candidates in House districts from which three representatives were
elected. The upshot was minority party representation in each
The Illinois House had 177 members. Quinn used a call to
reduce the size of the body -- and thus trim expenses -- as a major
selling point for the push to do away with cumulative voting.
Proponents of cumulative voting claim the present "winner-take-all"
system reduces the number of viewpoints among legislators and
disenfranchises minority political parties. They say the return of
such voting would increase the number of contested House elections.
State Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, said he "probably would vote
for it" if the issue came before the House, but he would have to see
how much it would cost.
"Partisanship has increased in the last 20
years," Mitchell said. "Politics in Illinois have gotten more mean.
The present system has strengthened the legislative leaders' roles.
And cost has gone up. We have more staff than ever."
Julie A. Curry, D-Mount Zion, is opposed to cumulative voting
returning. She said she can't see any benefit to downstate voters
whose voices in Springfield would be further diminished because the
state's population shift to the Chicago suburbs would give that area
even more clout.
More information is available
on the Midwest Democracy Center's Web site,