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Report From Illinois

Dan Johnson-Weinberger, General Counsel,

Center for Voting and Democracy

February 26, 2003


On April 29, 2003,  HB 138 passed the Senate Local Government committee on a 6-4 vote. It now goes to the Senate floor for a vote in May. Call Dan at 312-933-4890 if you live in Illinois and want to help.

FIRST LEGISLATIVE SUCCESS FOR CUMULATIVE VOTING IN DECADES AND BALLOT WIN FOR "DRIVE TO REVIVE" IN CHICAGO PRECINCT ELECTION

We've had two significant wins this month

First, we are making real progress in the Illinois General Assembly. Earlier this month, a bill to let county boards grant cumulative voting rights in county elections passed the House 73-40 (5 not voting). Introduced by Jack Franks (D-Woodstock), HB 138 now moves on the state Senate, where Terry Link (D-Highwood) has agreed to pick it up.

 

The 40 opposition votes came mostly from Republicans, who fear that using cumulative voting in county board elections will lead to the representation of Democrats on the DuPage and McHenry County Boards. Well, they're right. Even though Democrat Jesse White won both of those counties, not a single Democrat is serving on either county board. That's just not fair, and cumulative voting will result in bipartisan representation, so the many Democrats in both counties can have their voice heard on the county board.

 

Second, thanks to the efforts of Mike Leszkai, in yesterday's municipal elections there was an advisory vote in Ward's 47 Precinct 28 on whether Illinois should use cumulative voting in three’Äëmember districts in the state House. An overwhelming 178 of the 222 voters gave a big thumbs up. That's 80% voting yes!!!

Back in Springfield, to build support for a return to cumulative voting in the state House of Representatives and to boost democracy in local government, we’Äôre working to allow local governments in the state to use cumulative voting. If school boards, city councils and county boards in the state join Peoria in using cumulative voting, we think it will make a return to cumulative voting for the state House more likely.

In addition to the couny board bill, two other worthy bills have been introduced:

’Ä¢ Senator Miguel Del Valle (D-Chicago), Chair of the Senate Education Committee, has introduced SB 1371 to allow school districts to grant cumulative voting rights.

’Ä¢ House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago) has introduced HB 2544, which would allow villages and towns the same right as cities to use cumulative voting in three-member districts, called the ’Äúminority representation plan’Äù in the state code.

Later this spring, we anticipate the introduction of a state constitutional amendment that would implement three-member districts for the state House, elected by cumulative voting. We hope to make a bit of a press splash with legislators from both houses calling for this forward-looking reform.

Not to blow my own horn, but I've found you just can't overestimate the value of a personal presence in Springfield. Last session, when I was lobbying on the cumulative voting amendment for the Illinois House, I was in chief sponsor Sara Feigenholtz's Springfield office. I asked her office’Äëmate Jack Franks if he would support the amendment. He said he instead wished cumulative voting could be used in county board elections. Last summer, Rep. Franks and I drafted the bill and went back and forth with the Legislative Research Bureau to perfect the bill all fall. When the General Assembly convened in January, Rep. Franks and I were ready to hit the ground running. Rules Committee Chairwoman Barbara Flynn Currie was good enough to assign the bill to a friendly committee, and I testified in the Elections and Campaign Reform Committee on the very first day. After educating many first-term legislators on what cumulative voting is, we had our successful floor vote.

 

I maintain an apartment in Springfield at 404 West Capitol (just West of the Stratton Office Building). If you are ever interested in coming to Springfield to help me lobby, please let me know. I can be reached at 312.933.4890 or [email protected]. With your ongoing help to our drive to revive cumulative voting, we will take advantage of opportunities with a Democratic General Assembly this year and pass some of our bills.


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