• Ben Szalinski
    MAY 03, 2024


    Senate approves change to election rules in middle of election season  

    The vote board in the Senate reflects votes on a plan to end the party appointment process for open spots on the ballot. [Ben Szalinski/The Daily Line] 

    In just 24 hours, General Assembly Democrats rammed through an elections package to change the rules around filling vacancies for political parties on the ballot as local Republicans in two areas in the state attempt to name new candidates to open seats on November’s ballot. 

    The Senate voted 35-3, with all 18 Republicans voting present, on Thursday to pass SB2412 sponsored by President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), which bans local parties from meeting after primaries to “slate” a candidate to fill a vacancy for the party in legislative races. Currently, the local parties have 75 days after a primary election to fill a vacant seat with a new candidate. The bill takes effect immediately when the governor signs it.  

    Sens. Mike Halpin (D-Rock Island), Robert Martwick (D-Chicago) and Laura Murphy (D-Des Plaines) voted against the bill.   

    “This was a favorite tactic of a former legislative leader,” Harmon said, referring to former House Speaker Mike Madigan. “I think that speaks for itself.”  

    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.   

    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. A similar situation is occurring in Lake County, where party officials have selected a candidate to run against Sen. Mary Edly-Allen (D-Libertyville).   

    “There is only one reason to push major legislation like this through in 24 hours and it sure isn’t about good government,” Curran said. “It’s to change the rules for an election cycle that has already started and a slating process that is nearly complete to stack the decks in favor of your favorite incumbents.” 

    Harmon called the bill “timely and time-sensitive.”  

    Harmon told The Daily Line following the vote he wasn’t aware Lake County Republicans were working to slate a candidate against Edly-Allen but that Senate Democrats had been discussing pursuing this change for a while.   

    The House Republican Organization announced following the vote that Jay Keeven filed to fill the empty Republican spot on the ballot in the 112th House District, as the organization dubbed the bill the “Katie Stuart Protection Act.” A State Board of Elections official told The Daily Line “I don’t have time for this” when asked to confirm if Keeven had filed his paperwork.   

    “Democrats don’t want to pick our opponents,” Harmon said. “We want the voters to. There are still opportunities for folks who didn’t run in the primary election to get on the ballot — running as an independent, running as a new party candidate.”  

    Republicans are furious over the move, calling it “election interference” as the candidate slating process is already underway.  

    Sen. Jason Plummer (R-Edwardsville), who represents Stuart’s House district in the Senate, said Democrats in the Senate should be just as angry with House Democrats for pushing the bill as they were on Wednesday night during the annual House vs. Senate softball game when the House tried changing rules about the batting order.   

    “You kind of think you’ve heard it all in Springfield until you hear that we’re protecting the democratic process by taking choice away from the voters,” Plummer said.   

    Senate Republicans have found themselves at the negotiating table on a regular basis with Senate Democrats on all types of issues. Curran questioned why that couldn’t happen on this bill.   

    “Why throw it away, all the good we had worked collaboratively to build?” Curran asked. “Why abandon the incredible effort we put in to be a better example of how a democratically elected body should work?”   

    Gov. JB Pritzker didn’t relay any concerns about the bill when asked about it at a separate event in Normal, though he added he hadn’t reviewed the bill yet.   

    “As I understand it, this is actually an ethics bill,” Pritzker said. “It really does make sure that we don’t have backroom deals to put people on the ballot and run as a result of a small group of people in a smoke-filled room making the choice. So I think to me, more transparency is better.” 

    The bill also allows voters to give their opinion on how lawmakers should handle key policy areas on extra taxes for millionaires, IVF and protections for elections workers. It also honors a request from county clerks to give candidates for office more time to pass petitions, moving up the first day for passing petitions to August during election cycles where the primary is held in mid-March.   

    “It’s very ironic that a motion that contains a referendum on election interference actually interferes with a pending election,” Sen. Steve McClure (R-Springfield) said.  


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