Fair representation voting was a fixture in Illinois state government for over a century: the state elected its state representatives using cumulative voting from 1870 to 1980. Initially adopted to reduce partisan polarization after the Civil War, cumulative voting was widely supported for much of the time it was in use.
John Porter, former Republican Illinois Congressman and proponent of fair representation voting systems, stated that under cumulative voting he and his colleagues "operated in a less partisan environment because both parties represented the entire state.” Republican politician Tom Campbell became interested in other fair representation voting reforms because of his positive experience with cumulative voting in Illinois. In 2001, a bipartisan task force found that fair representation voting enhanced voter choice, improved representation, promoted independence of legislators from party leaders, and generated richer deliberation and statewide consensus. Unfortunately, fair representation voting for the Illinois house was repealed in 1980 as part of a campaign to reduce the number of seats in the state legislature.
Since its repeal, leaders from both major parties in Illinois have repeatedly called for its return. In 2001, Democrat Rep. Feigenholtz and Republican Rep. Winkel co-sponsored a measure for an amendment to the Illinois constitution that would divide the state into 39 districts, with 3 representatives elected in each district. A return to cumulative voting was also supported by then state senator Barack Obama, who introduced a bill to return fair representation voting to Illinois.
Cumulative voting continues in Peoria, Illinois which has elected five members at-large using cumulative voting since 1991. As a result, Peoria has had consistent African American representation on the city council since that time. The election of political newcomers Ryan Spain in 2007 and John Morris in 1999 showcased how the system encourages turnover in elections rather than continually electing incumbents to office. In fact, cumulative voting was so successful at fostering proportional representation in the city that officials decided to continue using the system in 2011 when motions were made to change it. To learn more about cumulative voting and how it works, go to our proportional representation voting page.