SPRINGFIELD — It is unlikely Illinois will become the third state to change how it allocates its electoral votes for president, but that isn’t stopping some state lawmakers from trying.
House Bill 3109, recently introduced by Springfield Republican Rep. Tim Butler, would change the state’s “winner-take-all” electoral system to one that is more representative of downstate Illinois.
“A single state now has a multitude of differing regional interests within it. …It makes sense that we update how we award our electoral votes for president,” Butler said in a news release last week.
As with all states, Illinois has one electoral college vote for each of its congressional representatives (18) and senators (2), for a total of 20. In presidential elections, the candidate who wins the statewide popular vote gets all 20 electoral college votes.
Butler’s bill would change this so that electoral votes are awarded based on which candidate wins in each congressional district, with two of those electoral votes — those for the senators — based on the statewide popular vote.
“The rural areas could potentially be represented in a much more fair fashion under the model in this bill,” said Republican Rep. Darren Bailey from Louisville, the chief co-sponsor of Butler’s bill.
Butler’s proposal would have changed Illinois’ allocation in the 2016 presidential election, when Hillary Clinton won all of the state’s 20 electoral votes. If Butler’s plan were in place, Clinton would have won 13 electoral votes, and Donald Trump seven.
As election-tracking website 270 to Win notes, most state electoral college reforms are proposed “when the party of the losing presidential candidate differs from the party controlling the state Legislature,” as is the case in Illinois.
Whether proposed reforms would help the minority party candidate in a particular state is unclear, however.
After Mitt Romney lost the 2012 president election, and Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes, a Republican state senator proposed a shift similar to what Butler has put forth in Illinois.
But in 2016, Trump, the Republican candidate, would have received nine fewer electoral votes from Pennsylvania under a split allotment than he actually won.
Currently, only Maine and Nebraska have adopted the “congressional district” method of allocating electoral votes.
With Democrats in firm control of the Legislature and the governor’s office, however, it is unlikely that Illinois will become the third state to join them, Bailey said.
“Right now under this current environment, I think it’s very unlikely that this will go through,” Bailey said. “But, as with all things, you plant a seed, and you get people talking and thinking for when they’re ready to hear it again.”
Illinois has given all its electoral votes to a Democratic presidential candidate since 1988. That streak certainly would end under Butler’s bill, which awaits further assignment out of committee.