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CCFB News» June 2024

Manifolds, Manolos, and Manure

The Illinois Legislature approved the creation of a Ranked-Choice and Voting System Task Force for the purpose of reviewing voting systems and methods of voting. The task force is charged with:

  • Engaging election officials, interested groups, and the public for the purpose of assessing and implementing ranked-choice voting in presidential primary elections beginning in 2028.
  • Advising whether the voting systems used by the State Board of Elections and local authorities would be able to accommodate alternative methods of voting.
  • Making recommendations for changes to the Election Code or administrative rules.


The task force is composed of 20 members including legislators, the public, and individuals with knowledge and experience administering elections. But what is ranked choice voting and how would it impact Illinois elections?


Ranked choice voting is a system in which a voter ranks candidates on their ballot in order of preference. If a candidate receives more than 50% of the vote s/he is declared the winner. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. The ballots with the now-eliminated candidate as their first choice candidate now go to the second choice candidate and the votes are recounted. This process is repeated until a candidate has over 50% of the vote.


Ranked-choice voting is in direct contrast to the voting system employed by most of the country including in Illinois, plurality voting. With this system a candidate only has to win one more vote than their opponent. With this process, a candidate could receive less than 20% of the vote but his/her opponents received even fewer votes; therefore, the candidate with less than 20% of the vote wins. Another way to think about it is that with our current voting system 80% of voters voted against the winning candidate. Eighty percent of voters preferred anyone else.


Potential advantages of ranked choice voting include:

  • Increased voter turnout. Elections outside of the second Tuesday in November suffer from chronic low voter turnout.
  • Elimination of the need for and costs of runoff elections.
  • Elimination of voters’ feelings of their vote not counting. Even if their favorite candidate doesn’t win perhaps their second choice could.
  • Reduced negative campaigning. Candidates are not only competing for first choice votes but also second or third choice votes from their opponents, which disincentivizes candidates from running highly negative campaigns.
  • Increased candidate diversity. With ranked choice voting political parties worry less about vote splitting.


Concerns about ranked choice voting include:

  • Longer ballots.
  • Increased cost of printing.
  • Voter confusion about the process.
  • Transition hurdles.


Roughly 50 jurisdictions nationwide have adopted ranked choice voting, including Evanston which plans to implement ranked choice voting for their municipal election in April of 2025. Additional jurisdictions include Alaska; Maine; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Oakland, California; and St. Paul, Minnesota.


As the task force reports back to the Legislature it will be interesting to see what recommendations and information is included.

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