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Illinois Democrats approve changes to election law in less than 24 hours


(The Center Square) – In less than 24 hours, Illinois Statehouse Democrats passed a measure that changes election law, a move Republicans say is a slap in the face of voters in the middle of an election cycle. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signaled support.

Senate Bill 2412 originally started as a measure impacting child welfare, but late Wednesday, House Democrats gutted the bill to bring about an elections measure. House Republicans voted present and walked off the floor in protest, saying the measure was dropped on them last minute.

The measure as amended sets three non-binding referendums to ask the state’s voters about property taxes, in vitro fertilization, and election worker security. It also changes filing deadlines and gets rid of the slating process where Democrats and Republicans can be placed on a general election ballot despite not running in the primary.

Asked about the bill at an unrelated event Thursday, Pritzker said he hasn’t read the measure fully.

“It just got put through,” Pritzker said. “I haven’t seen the details of it but as I understand this is actually an ethics bill. 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. So I think, to me, more transparency is better.”

On concurrence in the Senate Thursday where it also passed, state Sen. Erica Harriss, R-Glen Carbon, said the measure encompasses everything wrong with Illinois, and was filed less than 24 hours before being brought up in the Senate.

“This bill was filed yesterday, yesterday,” Harriss said. “It’s a slap in the face to the concept of democracy and this is a shameful and political power grab.”

Senate Minority Leader John Curran, R-Downers Grove, said the Democrats’ measure gets rid of competition in the middle of an election.

“It’s also a slap in the face to voters that one of the ballot questions you’ve included is about election interference when that’s exactly what this legislation does,” said Curran. “Think about that for a minute. You’re saying you’re afraid of competition and you’ll do anything to gain one more seat, one more advantage in November.”

Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, said the measure addresses a practice he said has been abused, and the bill impacts both parties.

“We Democrats won’t be able to slate candidates for the Senate in any district where your members are running unopposed,” Harmon said.

In March’s primary, more than half of available statehouse seats had either no Democrat or no Republican running, meaning the winning party is already determined. Democrats have supermajorities in both the Illinois House and Senate.

Republicans said the fear of backroom deals is nonsense as the measure that was approved wasn’t publicly debated before it passed the House Wednesday and concurred by the Senate Thursday.