Delaying Illinois primary discussed — and shot down: ‘No chance of that’

“We’re moving full speed ahead with Tuesday’s election,” board spokesman Jim Allen said. Allen declined to discuss the concerns that led city election officials to raise the possibility of some type of postponement earlier Wednesday.

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An early voter receives an “I voted!” bracelet after casting her ballot in the March 17 Illinois primary election at the new Loop super site at 191 N. Clark St. last week.

An early voter receives an “I voted!” bracelet after casting her ballot in the March 17 Illinois primary election at the new Loop super site at 191 N. Clark St. last week.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

Complete coverage of the local and national primary and general election, including results, analysis and voter resources to keep Chicago voters informed.

Election officials said Wednesday they are proceeding as scheduled with Tuesday’s Illinois primary election after the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners raised the possibility of postponement because of complications caused by the coronavirus.

“We’re moving full speed ahead with Tuesday’s election,” board spokesman Jim Allen said.

Allen declined to discuss the concerns that led city election officials to raise the possibility of some type of postponement during a conference call Wednesday with County Clerk Karen Yarbrough, state House Speaker Michael Madigan, state Senate President Don Harmon and a representative of Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

But sources said the city election board received strong pushback from elected officials in favor of sticking to the schedule outlined in Illinois law.

State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich said no one at the state agency was contacted about postponing the election.

City election officials are said to be concerned about possible Election Day problems caused by last minute changes in polling places and election judges backing out because of coronavirus concerns.

But Allen said: “We’re confident the city is going to help us work everything out.”

Crain’s Chicago Business first reported Wednesday that the city elections board scheduled and then abruptly cancelled a Wednesday evening meeting during which members were to further discuss the possibility of a primary delay.

State law does not explicitly allow for elections to be postponed, but the Chicago board was pondering a clause in the Illinois Constitution mandating that elections are “free and equal,” Allen told Crain’s. The argument suggests that a “free and equal” election cannot happen amid the difficulties posed by Illinois’ COVID-19 outbreak.

When asked if there is any chance Election Day in Chicago will be postponed, Allen told the Sun-Times: “No, there is no chance of that.”

On the first day of early voting, Fred Blakely, 75, of South Shore, casts his ballot in the March 17 Illinois primary.

On the first day of early voting, Fred Blakely, 75, of South Shore, casts his ballot in the March 17 Illinois primary election at the new Loop super site at 191 N. Clark St. on March 2

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

Jordan Abudayyeh, a spokeswoman for Pritzker, confirmed that the Chicago board requested a call with Pritzker’s administration to discuss the upcoming election, but did not confirm whether they discussed possibly postponing next week’s election.

“No decisions were made or actions taken as a result of this call,” Abudayyeh said. “Any decision about procedures around the election would only be made in consultation with leaders across the city and state.”

She said Pritzker’s top priority is ensuring election authorities have the resources needed to make sure everyone has the ability to vote on Election Day.

Spokespeople for Harmon, Yarbrough and Madigan’s offices also did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Chicago Board of Elections also announced Tuesday it would move 25 precinct polling locations amid growing coronavirus concerns. Some of the locations being changed are nursing homes; others are private locations and could be moved to firehouses, schools and other places yet to be determined.

Some poll workers have also notified the board they will not work Election Day, though Allen said it is not “a significant number.”

Still, officials urged people to consider early voting so people don’t have to rely on the U.S. Postal Service to get their ballot to the board. Those choosing a mail-in ballot must request it by 5 p.m. Thursday.

Officials said the board is offering hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes to voting locations so polling sites can be wiped down “periodically.”

Contributing: Rachel Hinton

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