Ottawa Times (IL)
Plan Splits Area Legislators: cumulative
voting dropped in 1980
By Myke Feinman
August 5, 2001
A decades-old voting system gave both parties a say in
government ñ or hurt teamwork and created "deadwood" legislators,
depending on whom you ask.
State Sen. Patrick Welch, D-Peru, opposes the system.
Reps. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, and Mary K. O'Brien, D-Coal
City, support it.
The Illinois Assembly on Political Representation and
Alternative Electoral Systems, led by former Gov. Jim Edgar and
former federal Judge Abner Mikva, wants to bring back "cumulative
That was the decades-old system in use through 1980
that gave people multiple votes they could use for a single
candidate or spread out among several to elect three representatives
for each legislative district.
The system- at the time the only one of its kind in
the nation- was dropped in favor of a winner-take-all approach in
1980 when voters also cut the number of House members by one-third.
At the time of cumulative voting, there were 177
representatives in Springfield. Now there are 118. "In this district
here, my father, Richard Mautino, was under cumulative voting."
Frank Mautino said. "At that time his district was also a Republican
district. There were two Republicans and one Democrat. That way both
parties always had a say."
Mautino said the way in which the change was sold to
the public was that eliminating cumulative voting would save the
state money. "It didn't happen," Mautino said. "What was done to
replace representatives was expansion of partisan staffs." Mautino
said he did not believe reverting to the old system would pass
because changing to the present system created a concentration of
power in the leadership ñ and they won't give up their power.
"It created power in the Speaker of the House and
President of the Senate, "Mautino said. " Prior to that,
politically, you did not have to go to the Speaker or to the
President of the Senate (to introduce a bill). You could bring ideas
forward and try to convince people in both parties. By returning to
cumulative voting, it would decentralize that power. People in power
do not want to give it up."
Welch, who is assistant minority leader in the Senate,
agrees with Mautino about the savings, but not the system.
"It causes factions within the majority as well as the
minority groups," Welch said. "I agree it doesn't save us money. But
the part of the argument that it has lead to a concentration of
power in leaders ñ I don't think that follows."
Welch defeated Betty Hoxey, Marseilles, for the Senate
seat in 1982, saying that was the first time Hoxey ran for the
Senate in a two-candidate race. Hoxey had been a state
representative running with two other candidates under the old
Rep. Mary K. O'Brien, D-Coal City, believes cumulative
voting would be good for voters and bring government closer to the
"I just think that the closer you are and the more
there are legislators, there's always strength in numbers," O'Brien
said Tuesday. "The closer government is to you, the more say you
have in government. Where legislative districts are half the size of
senate districts, people seem to know their representatives better
than their senator. People want cooperation. If you look around, our
legislators in our area work very well together."
Welch countered that the old system gave seats to
legislators who did nothing for their constituents.
"You get a lot more deadwood with the system," Welch
said. "Number one, you've got people running to be the second
candidate to be the minority party in the district. What we used to
have in this district is the minority party with two candidates that
split the ticket. That hinders teamwork."