Illinois lawmakers are proposing moving next year’s March 15 primary to June 28, along with measures to make it easier for people to permanently receive a mail-in ballot, as part of a comprehensive election measure advancing through the General Assembly.
The legislation also would make curbside voting permanent, and set up voting centers on Election Day where anyone within the election’s jurisdiction could vote, regardless of the precinct of their residence.
The measure also would make the general election date of Nov. 8, 2022, a state and school holiday, as it was last year, making it easier to use school buildings as polling places without having to deal with student security.
The measure advanced 11-7 from the Democratic-controlled House Ethics and Education Committee to the full House.
Democrats pushed for the primary date change as they await federal census data that isn’t expected until mid-August to draw new congressional boundaries. Actual census figures were delayed due to the pandemic and unsuccessful attempts by the Trump administration to keep noncitizens out of the count.
In drawing new state legislative maps, Democrats opted to move quickly and use estimated federal census survey data rather than specific census figures. That was to avoid a June 30 state constitutional deadline that would have set the stage for a process that would have given Republicans a 50-50 chance to draw the legislative boundaries for the next decade.
The congressional maps are under no such constitutional deadline. But Democrats opted to delay drawing the federal boundaries to get hard census data since the use of survey data would have made any map they drew especially subject to federal court challenge under voting rights and one person, one vote rules. Waiting for the hard census data, though, would have run up against the late August date when March primary candidates can begin circulating their petitions.
Republicans asked why Democrats were moving the primary date for only 2022. In his answer, sponsoring state Rep. Maurice West, a Rockford Democrat, didn’t say anything about the congressional map, instead noting that “the state has always had a really long window between the primary and the general, which makes the political season long and risky and negatively affecting public policymaking.”
He added that the date change could be made permanent later.
As a result of a June 28 primary date, the measure makes several changes in the election calendar.
Candidates would begin circulating petitions on Jan. 13 and would file them with the State Board of Elections between March 7 and 14.
People can seek a vote-by-mail application from March 30 to June 23. Ballots for people who filed a vote-by-mail application for the primary will be sent by May 14, with requests after that date being fulfilled within two days.
In-person early voting for the primary would begin May 19.
Election authorities will send out a notice of the availability of vote-by-mail applications as well as a new registry allowing people to permanently vote by mail. People who move or die would be removed from lists based on address data and death certificates.
The measure also allows county sheriffs statewide to set up polling places in their jails for people who are awaiting trial and have not been convicted. That would be similar to what Cook County already does.
The measure also would allow counties to use the same survey data lawmakers used to redraw their legislative boundaries, the American Community Survey, to redraw county political boundaries. Counties also would see the date for new political maps pushed back.
In addition, the legislation would require more public information involving the filling of legislative vacancies by appointment. It also would end the practice of Democrats electing a state central committeeman and state central committeewoman to their governing board. The proposal would require that in a state central committee election, the top vote-getter be followed by someone not of the same gender.
As a result of concerns over a previous hacking of the Illinois State Board of Elections, the legislation also would require the state’s 108 election authorities — primarily county clerks and boards of election — to conduct monthly vulnerability risk scanning.