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Key Win for Full Representation 

Illinois Governor signs HB 138 
Contact: Dan Johnson-Weinberger, Director
             Midwest Democracy Center and General Counsel, Center for              Voting and Democracy - 312.933.4890 (cell)

Illinois' governor has signed this legislation, which was passed out of the legislature in May 2003

May 9, 2003

The Illinois state senate today joined the house in passing legislation that allows counties to grant cumulative voting rights in multi-member districts. Now to go to the governor for signature. The bill also authorizes citizen initiatives on the structure of county boards.

"This is a great step toward governments that represent everyone, not just the political majority. Cumulative voting rights are a great fit for county board elections, and I hope that many county boards take the opportunity that this legislation provides." said Dan Johnson-Weinberger, Director of the Midwest Democracy Center.

HB 138 passed the Illinois Senate today on a 30-26 vote. The Senate sponsor is Terry Link (D-Highwood) and the House sponsor is Jack Franks (D-Woodstock).

Current law permits county boards wide latitude in setting up their electoral system by county ordinance. They may use single-member districts or multi-member districts. They may use a combination of the two. They may not, however, grant cumulative voting rights in multi-member districts.

HB 138 would give county boards the authority to grant cumulative voting rights in multi-member districts or at-large elections. It would also authorize advisory citizen initiatives on the question of the structure of the county board if citizens collect the signatures of 8% of the gubernatorial turnout.

How does cumulative voting work?

It doesn't work at all when only one person is elected. Cumulative voting only applies if there are at least two elected from a multi-member district (or at-large election). Voters with cumulative voting rights may give all their votes to one candidate - or split them up equally among several candidates. Voters without cumulative voting rights may not do so.

If there are three people to be elected from a district, and a voter really likes on candidate, the voter must 'throw away' two of his votes if he only wants to support the one candidate with his one vote. With cumulative voting rights, the voter can cast his full allocation of votes - all three votes -- for the one candidate he supports and give that candidate a better chance of winning. This will help the political minority get some level of representation and not just get locked out of any voice on the county board.

DuPage County is a good example of the need for cumulative voting rights. There are 18 members of the DuPage County Board and not a single Democrat, even though Jesse White carried the county in 2002 and Democrats almost always earns one-third of the vote. With districts that elect three county >board members, it's only fair that the political minority with one-third of the vote should elect one of the three members. McHenry County is similarly situated: not a single Democrat elected to the 24-member county board.

Which counties might be affected? Currently, most county boards use single-member districts. A partial review of the electoral systems of county boards (as of November 2002) follows:

COUNTY Members per district COUNTY  Members per district DuPage 3 Lake 1
McHenry 4 Effingham 1 Lee 7 Sangamon 1
McLean 2 Coles 1
Champaign 3 Cook 1
Jackson 2

The Midwest Democracy Center is a membership-based advocacy organization that promotes better voting systems. Our main goal is to bring back cumulative voting in three-seat districts to the Illinois House of Representatives (used from 1870-1980), as bipartisan representation in each district worked better. We also advocate for instant runoff voting and same-day voter registration. We are based in Chicago with membership statewide. Our website is www.midwestdemocracy.org
 
Read a report on the status of the legislation in February and how it had won advocates.
 

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______________________________________________________________________
The Center for Voting and Democracy
6930 Carroll Ave. Suite 610, Takoma Park, MD 20912
(301) 270-4616        info@fairvote.org