April 19, 2024

Eye On Illinois: Bost wins at the ballot box while likely losing in courtroom

As a career politician, Mike Bost should be used to winning and losing at the same time.

Bost, in his early 20s when he joined the Jackson County Board, won election to the Illinois House in 1994 and Congress in 2014. Last month he defeated former state Sen. Darren Bailey in a Republican Congressional primary, paving the way for a sixth term.

But as Hannah Meisel of Capitol News Illinois noted in a report on U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals proceedings, Bost concurrently appears headed to yet another loss in a lawsuit he helped file in May 2022 challenging a 2015 state law governing the counting of mail-in ballots.

Scott T. Holland

The plaintiffs’ arguments have always been on thin ice. U.S. District Judge John Kness poked holes in the legal theories when dismissing the complaint for lack of standing, and the appellate judges Thursday seem headed for similar conclusions.

“It is mere conjecture that, if Congressman Bost does not spend the time and resources to confer with his staff and watch the results roll in, his risk of losing the election will increase,” Kness wrote. “Under the letter of Illinois law, all votes must be cast by Election Day, so Congressman Bost’s electoral fate is sealed at midnight on Election Day, regardless of the resources he expends after the fact.”

Seventh Circuit Judge Michael Scudder noted many other states allow counting of mail-in ballots after Election Day. It’s typically the only way for military personnel stationed overseas to participate in domestic voting.

Scudder specifically noted Congress acknowledges and respects how “some states have receipt deadlines that postdate Election Day,” a useful legal point for any analysis but especially so when one of the plaintiffs has been serving in Congress the entire time the challenged state law has been on the books.

“The Constitution is clear: state legislatures set the rules for states in conducting their elections.”

That quote isn’t from Scudder – it’s from Bost himself, on Jan. 7, 2021, explaining why he opposed certifying Electoral College votes from Pennsylvania and Arizona.

On Aug. 24, 2021, Bost said “The Supreme Court has ruled that the U.S. Constitution provides each state the right to regulate their own elections, not the federal government. This is a fundamental principle of federalism.”

Like most politicians who champion states’ rights until they disagree with how a state exercises those rights, Bost isn’t opposed to Illinois setting its own election rules, but arguing one of those rules can’t be squared with the U.S. Constitution.

Congressional Republicans don’t want to federalize state elections. Illinois Republicans now are urging constituents to vote by mail. Bost’s lawsuit puts him somewhat at odds with both camps – but it won’t prevent his reelection.

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

Scott Holland

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.