Sunday, January 07, 2007

The cutback amendment...

This morning on CAN-TV Howard Brookins talked about how his former state senator father (Ald. Brookins' namesake) and the current City Clerk of Chicago, Miguel Del Valle, got some legislation providing for some judicial sub-circuits that helped to elect (according to Ald. Brookins) more minorities (black and Latino), women, and even Republicans to the bench in Cook County. Then I got to thinking about something that has come up a few times in my time in the Illinois Blogosphere and no doubt amongst political reformers.

I remember a few years ago that my mother and I had brought home some old encyclopedias from my aunt. She had more current ones than the ones we brought home that were from the 1970s. Imagine that some World Book Encyclopedias that were at one point owned by the Marshall Field family. Anyway at that point in time I was about to start studying for public law 194, it was an exam that was one of many requirements to graduate the 8th grade in the Chicago Public Schools.

Through there I learned that for the Illinois House of Representatives that 118 representatives are elected from each Representative district. I often look at it this way there were two state reps for every one state senator. See often times you would go to the website of the Illinois General Assembly and let's say you look for your state senator and on that person's profile you see their two associated state reps. If you look at the profile for a state rep you would see a profile to their associated state senator. Almost as if they were somehow related or otherwise responsible for each other.

According to the 1970s World Book there were 177 state representatives elected from from each districts. As always there were before and after the cutback amendment there were 59 state senators. Back then there were three reps for every state senator. And it seemed that they didn't have their own district, they were just part of the state senate district.

And how they got elected was confusing. See what was used to elect these three reps was called cumulative voting. See you as a voter had three votes and you could use those three votes for one person or you can cast two votes for one person and that last vote for another person. You can even perhaps use each vote for three different individuals or give two candidates one and a half votes. This was true since the ratification of the constitution of 1870 through to about 1980 thanks to an amendment to the state constitution called the cutback amendment.

It has been said that this cutback amendment has hurt Illinois more than it has helped. Indeed it has been pushed through as a reform in and of itself. Oh yeah this amendment was spearheaded by the current Lt. Governor, Pat Quinn. One reason for this amendment was to save taxpayers money another idea was to curb the influence of machine politics. Unfortunately these days you will see people who believe that this amendment may have hurt more than is has helped, indeed according to some of the information seen out there in my research the four tops, the party leaders in both the house and senate cut their deals with the governor while the rest of the membership just sits around and waits.

So I guess it's question time at this moment. I wonder if we should do for the rest of the state that judicial sub-circuits did for Cook County?

Before the robots marched on Springfield
Triple Threat
Taking Back the Vote
Cumulative Voting
The 'Cutback Amendment' and diversity in the House

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