Illinois Judge Rules Election Law Change Unconstitutional for 2024 Cycle

June 7, 2024

(Patch)—A Springfield judge ruled that a new Illinois law that prevents political parties from slating candidates when no one runs in a primary election is unconstitutional.

Wednesday’s order from Sangamon County Circuit Judge Gail Noll only applies to the 14 Republican candidates and the November 2024 election cycle.

Passed by the Democratic-led Illinois General Assembly on May 3 and signed into law hours later by Gov. J.B. Pritzker, the legislation prevented party committees from picking candidates to appear on the ballot in the general election in if no one had run in a primary.

Democrats, who hold supermajorities in both legislative chambers and tend to have far more primaries than the Illinois Republican Party, defended the bill as a way to reduce the influence of “backroom deals.”

Republicans called foul, arguing that eliminating provisions providing for a post-primary slating process obstructed their access to the ballot.

Senate Republican Leader John Curran described the bill as a “gross manipulation of the electoral process” by Democrats that was clearly unconstitutional.

“Gov. Pritzker’s deceitful framing of this legislation as ethics reform defied logic at the time and sought to cover up his willingness to assault the constitutional rights of Illinoisans in the Democrats’ quest for power at all costs,” Curran said in a statement.

Attorneys from the Liberty Justice Center filed suit on behalf of four potential General Assembly candidates on May 10. Noll granted a preliminary injunction on May 22, which blocked enforcement of the law.

Another 10 candidates joined the lawsuit as plaintiffs, and an amended complaint was filed May 31.

Defending the challenged amendment, Democratic Attorney General Kwame Raoul argued in court that the law was intended to prevent political insiders from having control over which candidates appear on the ballot.

Following a hearing on Monday, Noll made the injunction permanent. She ruled that the challenged amendment, known as Public Act 103-0586 or Senate Bill 2412, as applied to this year’s election cycle, places a “severe restriction” on the right to vote and so strict scrutiny must be applied to it.

“The Court is cognizant that it must avoid unnecessary declarations that a statute is unconstitutional; however, here the [14 prospective candidates] bring a constitutional challenge to the application of the revisions to [the Illinois Election Code] in the midst of the 2024 election cycle,” Noll said in her 12-page order.

“The finding of unconstitutionality is necessary to the Court’s decision,” she said, “and there is no alternative grounds upon which the decision can rest.”

Jeffrey Schwab, the senior counsel at the Liberty Justice Center, represented the candidates. He applauded Noll’s decision to block enforcement of the law.

“The General Assembly can change the rules for elections, but they can’t do it in the middle of the game to keep challengers off the ballot,” Schwab said. “We are proud to stand up for these candidates and against yet another scheme to suppress competition in Illinois elections.”

Representatives of the attorney general’s office have not announced whether they plan to appeal the ruling. House Speaker Chris Welch, who intervened in the lawsuit after it was filed, could also file an appeal. Noll’s ruling does not apply to any future elections.