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Task force to explore ranked choice voting in Illinois criticized for partisanship

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(The Center Square) – The first meeting of a task force to explore ranked choice voting in Illinois got off to a rocky start Tuesday after some members called for bipartisanship.

The Ranked-Choice and Voting Systems Task Force is expected to evaluate the current state of Illinois’ election systems and discuss the process of implementing ranked choice voting for Illinois’ 2028 presidential primaries. The task force is a result of an elections bill signed into law last year to review voting systems and methods of voting that could be authorized in Illinois.

It will also facilitate an accounting for how the state certifies certain election systems and equipment because supporters said 30% of Illinois’ counties are utilizing outdated voting machines and systems that are vulnerable to election security threats.

“Ranked choice voting is a practical and effective approach to refining our electoral process and empowering voters, ensuring their choice remains relevant even if their top candidate withdraws,” said state Rep. Maurice West, D-Rockford.

With ranked choice voting, votes from the first round are tallied, then candidates with the fewest votes who do not meet the threshold set by their respective party are eliminated. That candidate’s votes are redistributed to the remaining candidates based on voters’ second preferences.

State Sen. Laura Murphy, D-Des Plaines, and West were elected as co-chairs of the task force during the first meeting Tuesday. The law that created the task force said co-chairs would be elected from members appointed by the Senate president and the speaker of the House, both Democrats.

That didn’t sit well with state Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria.

“When we’re dealing with elections issues like this, it gives a particular emphasis to why bipartisanship should matter and unfortunately I think this only will enhance some of the suspicion that is lingering out there about the topic of ranked choice voting,” said Spain.

Opponents of the voting method also highlight something called “ballot exhaustion,” when voters choose not to fill out their ballot completely, and their votes are not utilized in further rounds once the candidates they did rank have been eliminated.

The statute creating the group says the task force must produce a report on its findings and recommendations by June 30, 2025.

Three states, Alaska, Hawaii and Maine, use ranked choice voting statewide, but five states, Florida, Tennessee, South Dakota, Montana and Idaho, have passed measures prohibiting the use of the voting method.

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