[EM] Reply from Dan of Illinois

New Democracy donald at mich.com
Fri Nov 13 17:51:21 PST 1998

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From: "Dan Johnson-Weinberger" <proportionalrepresentation at email.msn.com>
To: donald at mich.com
Subject: Re: Drive to revive Cumulative Voting in Illinois
Date: Thu, 12 Nov 1998 11:15:05 -0600

I thought I'd share our strategy in Illinois with the lists, in case anyone
is interested.

[Donald] >One: I suggest that you go for an election method a bit better
>              than Cumulative Voting.

We tried that a few years ago with a local referendum and a university
student government referendum, and they failed. We went for STV (single
transferable vote), and invariably, people did not grasp how the ballots
were counted. Almost all politically active people wanted to know how the
system worked, and just telling them '1,2,3' did not appease them
(justifiably so). When people took the time (about 15 minutes) to grasp the
elegance and the beauty of STV at work, then they were big fans. But, most
people did not take that time. So, we've decided to stick with what we know,
and push for cumulative voting.

>     Two: I suggest that you have your districts contain an even number of
>seats, four instead of three.
I think that's a poor idea for two reasons. One, districts will then end up
with a 2-2 tie, which makes voters uncomfortable. I think people would like
to see a winner in their area, and a local split seems (perhaps
justificably) like a recipe for gridlock. Another problem is that the House
will end up with an even number of legislators, which is (in my opinion) a
timebomb waiting for a tie vote. One of the good things about our initiative
is that is reduces the size of the House from 118 to 117 so that we end up
with an odd number.

>     The people of Illinois are already knowledgeable about Cumulative
>Voting. From that stepping stone you can easily sell them on a better
>method. Limited Voting is a better method, but I would suggest Single
>Non-Transferrable Vote(SNTV).

If only it were so easy! The people of Illinois that remember cumulative
voting (and are passionate about reviving it) are a minority of the voters.
No one under 40 remembers it, and those older people who do remember
cumulative voting tend to be a little set in their ways. Plus, there is
something very powerful about a campaign that can hark to the past -- it
isn't an odd, foreign, academic idea pushed by some novices -- this is a
tried-and-true system used for 110 years. That sort of rhetoric helps a
great deal.

I never thought of SNTV or limited voting as superior to cumulative voting,
but maybe they are. I imagine you like them more because it is easier for
the voter. But what about the majority party? Under cumulative voting, they
can split their votes between the two majority party candidates. Not so
under SNTV or limited voting.
How would you respond to that?

Thanks for your input Don -- if others feel like talking about this, I'm
certainly open to it as well (though the decision in Illinois has been

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