Cumulative Voting – Illinois

The state of Illinois had a semi-proportional voting system to elect the lower House from 1870 to 1980. This was a minor modification of the winner-take-all rules. The state was divided into three-seat districts. Voters had three votes but had the option to give all three votes to one candidate. As a result, in Illinois, district typically had two representatives representing two major factions within the majority party and one representative from the minority party.

Voters got rid of the system in 1980, partly to save money and partly in response to the slogan “Fire 59 lousy politicians with one shot.” The house shrank from 177 seats to 118 and simple majority voting became the rule.

In 1995 the Chicago Tribune editorialized in support of cumulative voting’s return, writing that “Many partisans and political independents have looked back wistfully at the era of cumulative voting. They acknowledge that it has produced some of the best and the brightest in Illinois politics.”

A bipartisan group of Illinois leaders led by former Governor Jim Edgar and former federal Judge Abner Mikva says it is time to change back. The final report of the Illinois Assembly on Political Representation and Alternative Electoral Systems, released in July 2001, summarizes a detailed review by assembly participants of problems facing Illinois’current electoral system and their examination of alternative methods used around the world. It also includes their proclamation calling for a return to cumulative voting.

Update 2005: The Midwest Democracy Center’s campaign to bring back cumulative voting to Illinois has been working with supportive state legislators on passing a bill (HJRCA 2) to seek a constitutional amendment to reinstate cumulative voting in the Illinois House of Representatives(see link to full text below).


Synopsis of the HJRCA 2 Bill As Introduced – January 12, 2005

Proposesto amend the Legislature Article of the Illinois Constitution. Beginning with members elected in 2008, changes the House of Representatives from a 118-member body elected from 118 districts to a 117-member body elected from 39 districts of 3 members each. Prohibits a political party from limiting its nominations to less than 3 candidates in a Representative District. Permits a voter to cast 3 votes among one, 2, or 3 candidates for Representative. Requires the Representative Districts to be redistricted in 2007 in the same manner as decennial redistricting of Legislative and Representative Districts. Effective upon being declared adopted and applies to the election of Representatives in 2008 and thereafter.

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