Gov. Signs Unnecessary and Costly Mandates Legislation for November Election

State Rep. Darren Bailey responded to the news that Governor Pritzker signed into law Senate Bill 1863 and House Bill 2238 to make election day another state holiday and require the Secretary of State and election authorities to spend unnecessary tax dollars. Under the guise of making the election safer because of the coronavirus scare, expanding mail-in (absentee) voting through statewide mailings to voters from 2017-2020 is an unnecessary mandate and added costs at a time when the state budget is unbalanced already.

“This new law creates a new state holiday for schools, colleges, and government offices and mandates that if an election authority demands the use of a school for voting, the local school board cannot say no. I am opposed to this mandated overreach of authority of one government entity over another,” declared Rep. Darren Bailey, a former member of his local school board for seventeen years.

“Illinois law already allows voters to request an absentee ballot for any reason, even for those who may be unable to travel for health reasons like the coronavirus concern,” added Rep. Bailey. “There is no reason to mandate the spending of millions of additional dollars in printing, postage and labor costs to send ‘vote by mail’ applications to all voters since 2017 to tell people something they already have known for many years now: that they can vote absentee in Illinois.”

Under the new law, local election offices must mail or email vote by mail (VBM) ballot applications and the VBM timeline to voters who cast a ballot in the 2018 general election, the 2019 consolidated election or the 2020 general primary election, including voters who registered or changed addresses after the primary election. Voters who submit their application for a VBM ballot by October 1 will receive their VBM ballot by October 6.

The legislation also expands early voting hours at permanent polling places and mandates ballot collection boxes to collect absentee ballots without adequate safeguards from tampering and theft of ballots. The election authority will be required to appoint a bipartisan panel of three election judges to verify voters’ signature and the validity of the ballot. Permanent branch polling places are required to be open from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the weekends and holidays.

The governor and legislation authors claim the new law permits the use of curbside voting, in which voters can fill out a ballot outside of the polling place. That practice already exists as a courtesy to people who request it.

The legislation requires local election authorities to establish a central voting site where anyone who lives in the jurisdiction can vote, regardless of their precinct. That already exists at the County Courthouses.

The trailer bill, HB 2238, would require collection boxes to be locked and opened only by election authorities, but does not currently provide guidelines and safeguards on what the boxes should be made of or what to do if a box is stolen with all of those ballots inside.

“The state and nation are facing unprecedented threats to fair and open elections and this legislation does nothing to curb that threat. The governor claims it expands the ability for people to vote safely when those options to vote absentee and curbside already exist.” Rep. Bailey concluded, “what is new in this legislation are the mandates on local county clerks and forced costs for unnecessary printing, postage, and processing of paperwork.”