Illinois Republicans sue over law banning legislative candidate slating

Springfield capitol

Illinois Statehouse — MRN FILE PHOTO

SPRINGFIELD — One week after Gov. JB Pritzker signed an elections-related measure that his fellow Democrats quickly muscled through the General Assembly, Republicans sued over the new law, alleging the majority party is blocking ballot access to would-be legislative candidates.

The law , passed early this month as the legislature’s spring session ramps up to its scheduled May 24 adjournment, bans the long-running practice of political parties slating candidates to run if the party didn’t put up a candidate in the primary.

The practice has been used by both Democrats and Republicans for decades when the winner of the opposite party’s primary election is deemed beatable. Until Pritzker signed the new law, state statute allowed parties to designate a candidate within 75 days of a primary; this year, that date is June 3.

Read more: Democrats muscle through changes to ballot access, advisory questions

Four would-be GOP candidates are plaintiffs in the case, filed by the Liberty Justice Center, a libertarian outfit behind lawsuits intervening in state law and politics – including one that ultimately resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court striking down so-called “fair share” union dues in 2018.

According to the filing, “at least a dozen people” were set to be appointed to the November ballot through the slating process. The four plaintiffs on the suit were all designated by their local parties in March and April, but none of them filed their nominating petitions before the law went into effect.

One of the four – Republican Daniel Behr of Northbrook – attempted to file petitions the afternoon before Pritzker signed the bill into law, and ended up filing them just six minutes after the governor’s signature was recorded on the bill the morning of May 3.

The suit cites but doesn’t name another candidate – Jay Keeven of Edwardsville – who was able to turn in his nominating petitions the day before Pritzker signed the law. Keeven is challenging Democratic Rep. Katie Stuart, also of Edwardsville.

The filing claims the timing of the law’s passage is unfair and undermines “free and fair elections.”

“The state has an interest in providing free and fair elections, and enacting legislation in the middle of a well-established process for candidates to appear on the ballot, allowing some candidates to access the ballot and prohibiting others, is clearly contrary to the interest in providing free and fair elections,” the suit said.

But the Illinois State Board Elections is still accepting nominating petitions for slated candidates until June 3 and will still go ahead with the one-week petition challenge process thereafter.

“We are honoring the deadlines and procedures as defined before this bill was signed into law,” Board of Elections spokesperson Matt Dietrich told Capitol News Illinois, acknowledging the petitions will likely end up in court one way or another.

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