• Ben Szalinski
    MAY 02, 2024


    House Dems want to eliminate appointing candidates to ballot; propose three advisory questions for November ballot in sudden political maneuver

    The Illinois Capitol 

    The House voted Wednesday to put three advisory referendum questions on the ballot for voters to consider on a range of subjects from insurance coverage to property taxes.  

    The bill also would prevent political parties from appointing candidates to fill open spots on the ballot in legislative races in a sudden political maneuver by House Democrats.

    Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea) dropped an amendment (SB2412) Wednesday morning in the House Executive Committee to create three advisory referendums and change the candidate selection process. It was approved about five hours later by the full House on a 67-4 vote, with all 40 Republicans voting present. Only Reps. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), Anthony DeLuca (D-Chicago Heights), Lindsey LaPointe (D-Chicago) and Suzanne Ness (D-Crystal Lake) voted against it. 

    The biggest gripe for Republicans is the bill would end the practice of allowing local political parties to appoint candidates to fill open seats on the general election ballot in state legislative races. Currently, the local parties have 75 days after a primary election to fill a vacant seat with a new candidate.  

    “I thought I had seen it all,” Rep. Ryan Spain (R-Peoria) said at a news conference. “Today is a new low for Democrats in the state of Illinois. It’s so low because it is absolutely disingenuous the way they conduct themselves and business of the people in the state of Illinois.”  

    “Democrats want to disenfranchise voters so that we can continue to not have competitive elections here in the state of Illinois,” Spain continued.  

    The House Republicans’ political arm is currently working to put what they believe would be a formidable opponent up against Rep. Katie Stuart (D-Edwardsville). No Republican ran in the primary race for the district, which allows the party officials in the House district to appoint a candidate for November.   

    “Our staff has not been able to find any other state that indicates that if you don’t file your petitions and run on the primary ballot, that you can ultimately be slated,” Hoffman said, characterizing them as “backroom deals.” The appointment meetings are open to the public, however.   

    But not all Democrats were on board. Cassidy said it just makes it harder for voters to have choices and makes it harder for people to run for office.  

    “I support democracy and access to the ballot,” Cassidy told The Daily Line. “I think that’s really fundamental as a Democrat. We are watching across the country as Republicans do everything in their power to prevent people from voting to make it more difficult for people to run for office. That’s not what we should be doing, that’s not what we should be standing for.”  

    Republicans are livid about how Democrats dropped the bill as a surprise on Wednesday morning.  

    “Serious legislators should want to give time to the public to understand the impact on the state,” House Minority Leader Tony McCombie (R-Savanna) said at a news conference. “We’re used to seeing this kind of maneuvering on May 31, but we don’t understand the sense of urgency right now. Unless the end goal is to stifle the Democratic process through the changes on slating candidates.”  

    The bill also allows voters to give their opinion on how lawmakers should handle key policy areas.  

    Illinois voters will not be asked to make abortion a constitutional right but will vote on an advisory referendum on IVF treatment. The question reads “Should all medically appropriate assisted reproductive treatments, including, but not limited to, in vitro fertilization, be covered by any health insurance plan in Illinois that provides coverage for pregnancy benefits, without limitation on the number of treatments?”  

    Gov. JB Pritzker called for creating a constitutional amendment that makes abortion a constitutional right during his second inaugural address.   

    “The right to privacy and bodily autonomy demand that we establish a constitutional protection for reproductive rights in Illinois,” Pritzker said in January 2023. “The extremists still want to take away a woman’s right to choose, and I don’t intend to let them. That’s why yet again, on women’s rights, Illinois will lead.”   

    Since then, Pritzker began a dark money non-profit called Think Big America that is designed to boost his political stature around the country and help support reproductive ballot questions in other states. The non-profit made a $500,000 contribution on Tuesday supporting a constitutional right to abortion in Florida.   

    But he hasn’t made the same push in Illinois and told reporters Tuesday when asked why he hasn’t pushed an amendment in Illinois that he’s focused on states where abortion protections aren’t as plentiful as they are in Illinois.   

    “We’re focusing on states where either those rights are being taken away or they’re highly at risk,” Pritzker said. “That’s not the case here in the state of Illinois, and we’re going to continue to expand the rights that we have here. I think it’s less important here than it is in other states that we pass a constitutional amendment.”  

    That’s OK with Cassidy, who leads a reproductive rights working group in the House. She described how it’s to Illinois’ advantage to assist other states in creating legal protections for abortion because Illinois has seen a massive influx of abortion patients since Roe v. Wade ended in June 2022. 

    “I’m in touch with folks in my home state of Florida about putting energy and time and resources into passing that referendum,” Cassidy said.  

    “[Binding ballot referendums] are incredibly expensive, they’re very resource intensive … those resources need to be dedicated to the other states,” Cassidy said on why Illinois lawmakers aren’t doing their own amendment.   

    Katie Stanczykiewicz, government relations director at Planned Parenthood Illinois Action, told The Daily Line it’s “not nearly as pressing” to pass an amendment in Illinois, where the laws already fully protect access to abortion and engrained Democratic elected officials block any attempts by Republicans to reverse it.  

    “Any time we can have an amendment to ensure the protections we have go even farther is a great thing no matter what time that comes,” Stanczykiewicz said.   

    Stanczykiewicz added that whenever the amendment does go to voters in Illinois, Planned Parenthood also wants it to have language protecting gender-affirming care.   

    In an additional statement on the ballot question, Stanczykiewicz said Planned Parenthood "supports initiatives to expand access to all sexual and reproductive health services."

    There are also two other questions for voters to consider. The first question on the ballot will ask voters “Should any candidate appearing on the Illinois ballot … be subject to civil penalties if the candidate interferes or attempts to interfere with an election worker’s official duties?   

    The second question on the ballot asks voters “Should the Illinois Constitution be amended to create an additional 3% tax on income greater than $1,000,000 for the purpose of dedicating funds raised to property tax relief?”  

    The bill still requires approval by the Senate.  

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