The Epoch Times

Judge Blocks Illinois Law that Changed Ballot Access Rules After Primary

May 23, 2024

(The Epoch Times)—An Illinois judge on Wednesday halted a newly enacted state election law that prevents candidates from gaining access to a major party ballot through an alternative “slating” option.

Prior to the change, a local committee for a political party could nominate, or “slate,” a candidate to a general election ballot even if no member of that party filed nominating petitions for the primary, so long as the candidate gathered the required number of petition signatures.

Under the new law, signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker on May 3, after the Illinois primary has passed, a party can no longer appoint candidates who didn’t run in the party’s primary to fill general election ballot spots.

The change adds more “transparency” into the upcoming race for Illinois’ legislative seat, argued Mr. Pritzker.

“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,” the Democrat governor said. “So I think, to me, more transparency is better.”

Republicans were outraged by the sudden change in the middle of an election cycle. The piece of legislation itself, they noted, was introduced more than a year ago as a child welfare bill unrelated to the election, only to have been modified on May 1 into a ballot access measure before it advanced through both chambers to the governor’s desk in a matter of two days with little public notice.

They further claimed that the law would give Democrats who already enjoy a supermajority in the General Assembly an unfair advantage to facilitate their dominance in the next election. Particularly, they alleged that the move was designed to prevent the slating of Republicans who could post “legitimate challenges” for at least two Democrats seeking reelection, state Reps. Katie Stuart and Mary Edly-Allen.

In Wednesday’s ruling, Judge Gail Noll of a Sangamon County Circuit Court sided with Republican hopefuls challenging the law, granting a preliminary injunction that puts the law on hold while the court considers the case.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for June 3, the same day candidates who had planned to get on the ballot via slating must file ballot access petitions with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

The Liberty Justice Center, a Chicago-based non-partisan legal group that sued on behalf of the hopeful candidates, welcomed the court order.

“We applaud the Court’s decision to uphold the rule of law and support voting rights for all people in Illinois,” Jeffrey Schwab, senior counsel at the Liberty Justice Center, said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to defend these fundamental rights in court and will be pressing forward to ensure the preliminary injunction becomes permanent.”

The Illinois Policy Institute, a Chicago-based conservative think tank, estimates that the law could leave 66 state House districts uncontested and 12 districts in the state Senate facing no competition.

“That’s bad for democracy,” the Institute said in an editorial following the law’s swift passage, noting that Illinois’ voter turnout data have shown when there is only one candidate on the ballot, voter participation on average drops seven percentage points.

The Democrats, meanwhile, argued that even with the law in place, anyone looking to run after the primary can still do so as an independent or third-party candidate. That would take more signatures.

“A candidate who would want to run for General Assembly seat after the primary will have to run, as they can today, as an independent or a third-party candidate,” said Illinois Senate President Don Harmon, a Democrat. “They would no longer be able to appeal to the local party bosses to have them installed as the candidate of a major political party.”