SPRINGFIELD (Illinois News Network) — Fair Vote, a non-partisan election reform group, advocates for a move to ranked-choice voting. Under the system, voters have the ability to rank as many candidates as they want in order of preference.
Geoffrey Cubbage, secretary of the Illinois Green Party, says an election reform like this already is a part of his party’s platform. He said ranked-choice could improve the system by eliminating the so-called “spoiler effect.”
“It gives everybody the ability to vote for their first choice,” Cubbage said, “even if that is a candidate from a party with less institutional support, with less overall membership, who perhaps has less of a shot of winning.”
“Under ranked-choice voting, it’s very rare you’ll win on based on ‘first choices’ alone, if it’s an open seat,” Penrose said. “That means you don’t want to be out there slinging mud at your opponent. You want their supporters to rank you second.”
Lex Green, chairman of the Libertarian Party of Illinois, said he believes voters would be far more likely to vote a third-party candidate as their “first choice” under a ranked-choice system.
“We get this all the time,” Green said. “The excuse that they’re voting against the candidate they dislike, and therefore are rallying around the one they think is most likely to beat that candidate, rather than voting for someone they believe in or a party that represents their views.”
However, a change would occur only if lawmakers pass a bill to eliminate the existing system, leaving Green pessimistic about the chances.
Cubbage also said getting a reform like this into law would take a great deal of pressure from citizens.
“People who are currently in the assembly got there by using the current system,” Cubbage said. “It works for them, it clearly didn’t work for their opponents. So their motivation to change it is extremely low. That is a change that’s going to have to come from the grass roots. That is something that citizen activists will have to push for.”
Critics warn about the cost and complexity of ranked choice voting, in addition to the issue of educating voters about the process. But Penrose said where it’s been tried, voters tend to like it.
“We’ve seen these elections go more and more smoothly,” Penrose said. “Overwhelmingly, people say they found the ballot easy to use. A majority said they liked the system and want it to continue.”
Maine will become the first state to implement ranked choice voting in a statewide primary election in June. Various municipalities across the U.S. also have adopted the process, including Minneapolis, San Francisco and Santa Fe.
State Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) introduced a bill last year to set up a ranked-choice voting system for Illinois state elections. However, the bill garnered no co-sponsors and currently sits in committee.
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