With Democrats’ supermajority control of the General Assembly, Gov. J.B. Pritzker has enjoyed four years of pushing through major initiatives beginning with an overdue $45 billion capital construction plan, a $15-an-hour minimum wage, legalized recreational marijuana while later reducing tens of billions of dollars in debt. Additionally, a great deal of the second half of his term was spent fighting COVID-19 and weathering criticism — led by his current opponent, state Sen. Darren Bailey — over his measures to stem the spread of the potentially deadly disease.
The 57-year-old billionaire equity investor and philanthropist is campaigning on those achievements in seeking a second term against Bailey, a Republican and farmer from southern Illinois. Bailey, who previously questioned the legitimacy of President Joe Biden’s victory and eagerly sought former President Donald Trump’s endorsement, has attacked Pritzker on issues such as state spending and crime, dubbing Chicago a “hellhole” and bashing a criminal justice overhaul that ends cash bail, which he claims will create a “revolving door” in jails for violent criminals.
Pritzker counters that Bailey, 56, who served one term in the House before winning his Senate seat in 2020, is too extreme for Illinois, embracing Trump’s MAGA movement, opposing any restrictions on firearms ownership and favoring an abortion ban, although Bailey says abortion restrictions are not on his agenda.
Ideas matter. So does money. On Sept. 30, state campaign finance records indicated that Pritzker had $42 million in his campaign account. Bailey had $767,000. Being on the wrong end of that funding imbalance makes it difficult to familiarize voters with your ideas.
At the top of the ticket, U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth seeks a second term against Kathy Salvi, a personal injury attorney who wants the post in part to crack Democrats’ control of Illinois government. Duckworth is a popular lawmaker, a disabled Iraq War veteran and Obama administration official. But Republicans believe they can reclaim the seat once held by Senate Minority Leader Everett McKinley Dirksen because it has seesawed between parties in the past quarter-century.
And the nation is watching labor-friendly Illinois for the outcome of a constitutional amendment that would guarantee the right to collective bargaining. Proponents say it would prevent of a “right-to-work” law that prohibits forcing the payment of union dues. Critics say it would drive up taxes and give unions too much power.
Here’s a look at what to expect on election night:
Polls close at 7 p.m. local time.
HOW ILLINOIS VOTES
Illinois voters are increasingly casting their ballots before Election Day, either by mail or in person at voting centers. During the pandemic in 2020, two-thirds of Illinois voters voted either by mail or early, but a third of voters already had made the switch away from in-person election-day voting in the two previous elections.
While most Illinois counties are strongly Republican, election results are dominated by overwhelmingly Democratic Chicago, the strongly Democratic Cook County suburbs and the more middle-of-the-road “collar counties” surrounding Chicago. More than a quarter of the electorate lives in Chicago and Cook County alone, making those the counties to watch in statewide races.
AP will tabulate votes in 150 races, including one for U.S. Senate, 17 for U.S. House, as well as governor, four other statewide offices and a statewide ballot measure. In the 2020 presidential election, the first votes were reported at 8:09 p.m. local time and the state reached 90% of the vote counted in the evening of the day after election day.
AP does not make projections or name apparent or likely winners. Only when AP is fully confident a race has been won – defined most simply as the moment a trailing candidate no longer has a path to victory – will we make a call. Should a candidate declare victory – or offer a concession – before AP calls a race, we will cover newsworthy developments in our reporting. In doing so, we will make clear that AP has not yet declared a winner and explain the reason why we believe the race is too early or too close to call. The AP may call a statewide or U.S. House race in which the margin between the top two candidates is 0.5% or less, if we determine the lead is too large for a recount to change the outcome.
The AP will not call down-ballot races on election night if the margin between the top two candidates is less than 2%. AP will revisit those races later in the week to confirm there aren’t enough outstanding votes left to count that could change the outcome.
WHAT ELSE SHOULD I KNOW?
Q: WHAT’S CHANGED SINCE THE PANDEMIC ELECTION OF 2020?
A: Illinois has taken one more step to make it easier to vote by mail, giving voters the option to automatically receive a mail ballot in future elections.
Q: WHAT DO TURNOUT AND ADVANCE VOTE LOOK LIKE?
A: More than 6 million Illinoisans voted in the 2020 presidential election, and 4.6 million turned out for the governor’s election in 2018. Turnout is typically lower in non-presidential years such as this year.
Q: HOW LONG DOES COUNTING USUALLY TAKE?
A: While Illinois historically has counted most of its ballots on election night, the boom in mail and early voting meant more than 13% of Illinois votes were counted after election day in 2020. This means winners may not be known in close races until the days after the election.
Q: WHAT HAPPENS AFTER TUESDAY?
A: Illinois does not have an automatic or mandatory recount law. Candidates may seek – and pay for – a recount if the losing candidate received 95% of the vote of the winner. Recount results are for discovery purposes – to be used in a potential legal action.
“J.B. Pritzker is hell-bent on becoming the most radical leftist governor in America. ... This man is dangerous.” — state Sen. Darren Bailey, the Republican nominee for governor.
“The criminal justice system that Darren Bailey and Republicans are standing up for is one that allows murderers and rapists and domestic abusers to buy their way out of jail.” — Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Bailey’s opposition to a law taking effect next year that ends cash bail.
“A big important state like Illinois enshrining this right to their constitution sends a signal across the country that the right to bargain collectively is a fundamental right.” — Northwestern University political scientist Daniel Galvin on the Workers’ Rights Amendment.