Mark election day Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, as another state holiday to the calendar for schools to be closed.
That’s just one of many elements in a broad election law change the governor enacted Friday that includes delaying the primary day by several months.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed Senate Bill 825, which brings about a host of changes. He praised the measure, saying it “articulates the rights of Illinois citizens to vote by mail, allows those awaiting trial to cast their ballots, and makes a state holiday of Election Day 2022.”
That echoed much of what state Rep. Katie Stuart (D-Edwardsville) said. Before the bill passed, she described aspects of the measure as modernizing and updating election law.
“It’s telling people that voting matters, voting is important, and voting is how your voice is heard and we recognize that by making it a state holiday,” Stuart said.
The law does not make the primary election a state holiday, but it does delay it from March 15, 2022, to June 28, 2022.
State Rep. Ryan Spain said the measure is not about voter empowerment. On the floor during debate about the bill, he said it's a veiled move by Democrats to continue control of the map-making process.
“We have to pass the map now for the legislature; it has to be now,” Spain said, critical of majority Democrats passing and the governor enacting statehouse boundaries. “But unfortunately for our congressional delegation, we’re going to wait, because the Democratic congressional delegation in the state of Illinois has said we want to wait until we get the census.”
Republicans and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund have separately filed lawsuits against Democrats for rushing legislative redistricting maps through. They claim Democrats used inaccurate data by relying on estimates from the American Community Survey.
“And we’re going to move the primary now so that we have plenty of time to draw the congressional map when the census is delivered,” Spain said.
Spain also criticized part of the law that injects using American Community Survey data for population.
“‘Population’ means the number of inhabitants as determined by the last preceding federal decennial census,” the law now states. “For the reapportionment of 2021, ‘population’ means the number of inhabitants as determined by the county board by any reasonable method, including, but not limited to, the most recent American Community Survey 5-year data.”
State lawmakers are expected to return to the capital this summer when full census data is released to approve congressional boundaries, with Illinois losing a seat.
The measure goes beyond the days of the 2022 elections. Practically, it also tasks county clerks and election officials with a variety of things.
Sangamon County Clerk Don Gray said the measure gives sheriffs the option of setting up polling places in county jails, but he doesn’t see that being widespread in more rural counties.
“We have close working relationships with our sheriffs to already facilitate the opportunity to vote by mail for those that are pre-trial detainees,” Gray said.
Gray said he doesn’t see options such as curbside ballot drop-off or the requirement to allow permanent mail-in balloting status increasing costs, but it will help counties better prepare.
“But it’s nice to know that it’s there just in case the environment dramatically changes like we’ve witnessed in the last couple election cycles,” Gray said.
The last two elections were during the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting a variety of last-minute procedure changes like allowing universal mail-in balloting.