New Illinois Candidate Restrictions Blocked for 2024

Changes to procedures ahead of a major election tend to spark controversy. This occurred recently in Illinois, where the state legislature passed a bill that helps incumbent office holders. It prevents a political party from appointing a candidate to run for a seat in the state legislature in a general election if the party did not have a candidate in the primary. Previously, a party could designate a candidate in these situations within 75 days of the primary.

Proponents of the bill hustled it through the Democrat-controlled legislature within two days of its introduction in early May. Governor J.B. Pritzker signed it into law almost immediately. Its supporters argue that it reduces the power of political insiders, regardless of their party. Republicans in the legislature criticized the haste with which the bill was adopted and argued that it targeted a particular Republican candidate. This was Jay Keeven, who sought a seat currently held by Democrat Katie Stuart in the 112th House District. However, Keeven managed to file his nominating petitions with the Illinois State Board of Elections before Pritzker signed the bill.

Other candidates could not act as quickly. (One of them, Daniel Behr, filed his petitions six minutes after Pritzker signed the bill.) Litigation soon followed on behalf of these candidates, arguing that the bill undermined “free and fair elections.” The candidates won a victory last week when a judge barred the Board of Elections from enforcing the law during the 2024 general election for the candidates named in the case. The judge felt that changing the rules for ballot access in the midst of an election cycle violated the constitutional rights of the candidates. She suggested that the legislature should have made the bill apply to the next election instead.

This order aligns with the decision that the Board of Elections already had made. Rather than implementing the new law, the Board had continued to follow the pre-existing rules. It accepted nominating petitions for candidates until June 3, which marked 75 days after the primary. Thus, the candidates at issue likely will appear on the ballot in November if they survive the standard petition challenge process.

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