Thursday, September 08, 2005

AG: Innovative voting systems are legal in Illinois

Great news: Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued an Opinion today (read it here) that the state Constitution permits home rule municipalities to implement innovative election systems like instant runoff voting and cumulative voting rights without explicit state law authorization.

This means that if a city like Oak Park or Urbana or Berwyn or Carbondale or any home rule municipality wants to use a modern election system, the municipality can put a referendum on the ballot (or citizens can petition to put an initiative on the ballot), and if the voters approve the proposition, the city will use an innovative election system.

Instant runoff voting (www.instantrunoff.com) is one example that would work very well in Chicago or any other city that uses single-member districts and holds elections in both February and Apil. This ends the spoiler dynamic where similar candidates split the vote, and it also ends the expense of a second election.

Cumulative voting rights (http://www.midwestdemocracy.org/cv.html) as used in the Illinois House from 1870-1980, would be a great fit for any municipality that uses at-large elections. The right is to cast all three or four votes for one candidate, allowing a political minority to elect one of their own, creating a more diverse local government. There's a movement in corporate America to provide cumulative voting rights for corporate elections to get an independent, non-establishment director on the board.

Now municipalities in Illinois have an opportunity to modernize their voting systems beyond what the Illinois General Assembly can imagine.

Also, to see how San Francisco uses instant runoff voting (they call is 'ranked choice voting') for their local elections, check out their Department of Elections page here with a nice flash demonstration here. They had a similar non-partisan, runoff election like Chicago and Springfield, until they decided to consolidate the two elections into one. Instead of voting twice (once in the 'primary' and once in the run-off), they count the ballots twice and let people indicate their runoff-choice by ranking the candidates (1, 2, 3). Now they have all the benefits of a runoff election (the candidate with the most support wins, there are no split votes or manipulation with fake candidates designed to harm an opponent) without the expense of two, separate elections.

This is exciting news. Perhaps some municipalities will have the chance to vote on some interesting referenda this March....

6 comments:

IlliniPundit said...

This is really interesting, and it'll be fun to see what some locales develop. Urbana will probably disappoint you, as the "progressive" element there has a firm, firm grip on power, and doesn't really have any reason to allow for independent thought or a more diverse Council. The ultra-libs control six-of-seven Council seats and the Mayor's office. Nothing will change.

Randall Sherman said...

This concept may take some time to develop, since it is highly likely that this opinion will be challenged in the court system.

Dan Johnson-Weinberger said...

What about Champaign? And I don't think the opinion is solid -- it's hard to see how it would be challenged.

Dan Johnson-Weinberger said...

I mean, I *do* think the A-G opinion is solid....

Larry Horse said...

I really hate the idea of cumulative voting because it gives you these corrupt clods who get elected with like 10% of the vote which is why Illinois listened to Pat Quinn and got rid of it in 1980. Proportional representation might be better for county boards and municipal elections, but then you have the problem of voting for parties instead of people.

I really do like the idea of IRV, but I am worried that it might confuse a lot of voters used to just voting one person for each office if they now have to rank each person. It also takes a lot of time and might lead to long voting lines or more people just not voting because of lack of time. I'm afraid that if enough people didn't get the "Butterfly ballot", there would be even more people confused by this thing. However, that's why I would love to see some municipalities adopt this system so that we can see how people react to them. Great natural experiment opportunity.

Nathan Kaufman said...

When is the next post Dan?