Illinois Governor Signs Controversial Election Bill That Would Help Democrats

‘It really does make sure that we don’t have backroom deals to put people on the ballot,’ Illinois Governor Pritzker said.

Last week, Democrats in the Illinois House added a last-minute amendment to Senate Bill 2412 that changes state election laws, including prohibiting political parties from appointing candidates to fill out general election ballots where the party did not field a primary candidate, known as slating.

The move outraged Republicans, a minority in the Illinois Legislature, who voted “present” and walked off the House floor without debating the measure, which quickly passed both chambers and was signed into law on May 3 by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The election changes went into effect immediately upon Mr. Pritzker’s signature, banning the slating appointment process that under previous law was allowed within 75 days of the primary.

The new law means candidates must run in the primary in order to appear on the November general election ballot. It effectively gives Democrats a win in races in which Republicans didn’t slate a candidate in the primary.

Democrats framed the bill as an ethics measure that prevents backroom dealing when choosing candidates, while Republicans said it unfairly changes the rules of a game that’s already in play—and amounts to a bid to steal the election.

Illinois Senate Republican Leader John Curran released a statement calling the measure an “abuse of power” and accusing Democrats of seeking to “politically suppress Illinoisans’ voting rights.”

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“Their dictator-style tactic of stealing an election before a vote is cast is a new low for elective government in this state and undermines the core principals of American democracy,” he said.

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the GOP criticism.

However, he defended signing the bill at a press conference in Bloomington.

“It really does make sure that we don’t have backroom deals to put people on the ballot and run as a result of some small group of people in a smoke-filled room making the choice,” Mr. Pritzker told reporters.

“So I think to me, more transparency is better.”

Matt Dietrich, a spokesperson for the Illinois Board of Elections, told The Epoch Times in a phone interview that the board will continue to accept slating filings under an original June 3 deadline, after which any filings that are accepted will be subject to objections based on the new law.

After the board hears objections, it will vote on whether or not to certify those candidates to the ballot, after which Mr. Dietrich said the board expects whichever side is on the losing end of those decisions to take the matter to court.

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Republicans contend that the key problem with the bill is that it will affect this year’s general election, which is already underway. While it’s unclear how many Republicans could be knocked out of ballot spots on account of the new bill, some reports suggest it could be dozens.

The Illinois Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research organization, estimates that the adoption of SB 2412 means that 66 Illinois House districts won’t be contested and 12 districts in the state Senate face no competition.

“Our political system is already rigged by a corrupt gerrymandering process, which allows politicians to give themselves an unfair political advantage by drawing political maps that create favorable electoral districts,” Hilary Gowins, Illinois Policy Institute senior vice president, wrote in an editorial.

“Democrats are abusing this power now, and Republicans have done so in the past when they had majorities in Springfield,” she added.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks to the media outside of the West Wing of the White House in Washington, on July 14, 2021. (Saul Loeb /AFP via Getty Images)
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks to the media outside of the West Wing of the White House in Washington, on July 14, 2021. (Saul Loeb /AFP via Getty Images)

Illinois House Republicans united in their criticism of the measure at a press conference at the state House, calling the election bill a “sham” and an attempt to “stifle the democratic process.”

“Democrats want to disenfranchise voters so that we can continue to not have competitive elections through the state of Illinois,” state Rep. Ryan Spain, a Republican, said at the presser. “The losers in this are the voters and the people of Illinois who deserve checks and balances and they deserve elections that are actually competitive.”

The Illinois Republican Party alleged that the move to prevent the slating of candidates was specifically aimed at protecting two Democrats facing legitimate challenges—Reps. Katie Stuart and Mary Edly-Allen.

“Democrats are running scared because they know their policies have made them increasingly unpopular, so they resort to tricks like these to protect their allies,” the Illinois GOP said in a statement.

For their part, Democrats argued that the measure introduces more transparency into elections and is a way for voters to have more say in who makes it onto the general election ballot.

Illinois Senate President Don Harmon, a Democrat, said on the Senate floor that the bill ends a “corrosive” practice where instead of fielding candidates in the primaries, party leaders wait until after the dust settles and pick a candidate to appear on the November general election ballot that they think will give them the best chance of winning.

“What we have here before us is an opportunity to end a corrosive practice where, strategically, people avoid primaries to see what the lay of the land is, and then pick the candidate best suited for November after the primary has been settled on the other side,” he said on the Senate floor.

Still, he acknowledged that the form of the change—via a last-minute amendment—was not the best solution.

“Would I do it this way, at this time, if left to my druthers? No, but this is an opportunity to end a practice that has been abused,” he said.

Mr. Harmon argued that anyone who wants to run after the primary can still do so as an Independent or third-party candidate.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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