Next year’s primary elections will be pushed back by three months under a bill approved by the General Assembly Monday night, the last scheduled day of the legislative session.
An amendment to Senate Bill 825 would, among other things: move the primary from the third Tuesday in March to June 28, 2022; make Election Day a state holiday for schools and universities; require high schools to allow on-site voter registration; change the dates for circulating candidate petitions.
Another amendment to that bill updates the term “alderman” to “alderperson.”
Rep. Maurice West, D-Rockford, said the primary would be moved partly to allow election clerks more time to educate people on when the primary will be and because “the state has always had a really long window between the primary and the general,” which can negatively effect policymaking.
“Our proposal is to do this one time change just to see how it works and I think it will be beneficial to the state, and then it can maybe be something we keep moving forward,” West said in a House committee Monday afternoon.
Hours later, ahead of the vote sending the bill to the Senate, Rep. Ryan Spain, R-Peoria, said the bill is about Democrats maintaining power.
“This bill is a continuation of the Democrats’ redistricting plan, and we continue to see that the ways to maintain and sustain power know no boundaries in the state of Illinois,” Spain said. “We have watched for weeks while redistricting activities are taking place and we were told that time is of the essence, that we have to act now in the cover of darkness ... because certain deadlines were bearing down upon us ... the hypocrisy of these mixed messages is astounding.”
Despite the division, the bill passed in a partisan vote in that chamber 72 to 46. Rep. Anthony DeLuca, D-Chicago Heights, was the sole Democrat to vote no on the bill, the vote count shows. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Senate later gave its stamp of approval, 41-to-18, sending it to Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Once signed, candidates could begin circulating nominating petitions for the general primary on Jan. 13, 2022. Independent candidates, or those in new political parties, could begin circulating their petitions April 13.
Voters could request a 2022 mail-in ballot between March 30 and June 23. The proposal also requires the Illinois State Board of Elections to submit legislation establishing a system by which mail-in ballots could be sent electronically and allow those with disabilities to mark their ballots with assistive technology.
County leaders would have until late November to develop and present redistricting plans for their municipalities and have until the end of the year to pass them, according to the bill. They’ll also be able to use data from the American Community Survey for those reapportionment plans, something Republicans have opposed.
A delayed primary means the Cook County Democratic Party would move its pre-slating days from June to later in the fall, the party’s executive director said.
The bill would also allow sheriffs in counties with fewer than 3 million people — meaning all but Cook County — to open temporary branch polling places at county jails for detainees.
Asked why state lawmakers approved new legislative maps when the primary likely would be delayed, a spokeswoman for Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch cited a June 30 constitutional deadline for creating and approving the updated boundaries.
The last time the state moved its primary date, in 2008, legislators chose to move it earlier — to February — to help Barack Obama, then a U.S. senator from Illinois, in his presidential bid.