June 19, 2024

Eye On Illinois: Judge’s writing lays bare folly of Dems’ attempt to change ballot rules

Always read the decision.

If you’re at all interested in government or politics, or at least topics grabbing the biggest, boldest headlines, it’s worth becoming familiar with reading judicial decisions.

No disrespect to my colleagues in the reporting and journalistic analysis communities, but when I saw the Wednesday afternoon report of a Sangamon County judge blocking the State Board of Elections from enforcing the new law that would’ve blocked certain candidates from November’s ballot, I didn’t want a summary, I wanted the actual words of the actual judge.

The 12-page opinion from Judge Gail Noll is available at tinyurl.com/BallotLawBlocked. Source documents are useful because they provide focus on the reality in the courtroom.

Headlines on this issue have been clear and concise (Capitol News Illinois: “Judge blocks law that would have banned newly slated candidates from ballot”), but reading the opinion directly helps strip away the partisan posturing of elected officials.

“At the beginning of the 2024 election cycle, on Sept. 5, 2023, the law of the state of Illinois provided multiple avenues for a candidate to access the ballot for General Assembly races in the November 2024 general election,” Noll wrote. “These same avenues were available on the petition filing deadline, Dec. 4, 2023, and on and after the March 19, 2024, primary.”

But when Gov. JB Pritzker signed Public Act 103-0586 on May 3, that “completely eliminated one of the previously available routes to ballot access,” the nomination process for races where a party didn’t field a primary candidate.

This isn’t an especially complex legal issue, but the judge’s dispassionate legal text lays bare Democrats’ brazen attempt to change rules midstream. The old law gave parties 75 days after the primary to slate candidates. The new law cut that short by a month, effective immediately with very little notice.

Noll determined that wasn’t fair to the 14 plaintiffs, all Republicans engaged in the post-primary slating process. She cited precedent – a 1980s case regarding the University of Illinois Board of Trustees and a 2016 Cook County Republican Party dispute – and rejected Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s assertion the new law must be allowed to stand to preserve the government’s interest in preventing insiders from controlling who is on which ballot.

“Changing the rules relating to ballot access in the merits of an election cycle removes certainty from the election process and is not necessary to achieve the legislation’s proffered goal,” Noll wrote, entering into the record a truth so obvious every fair-minded observer called it out when Democrats hurriedly passed the law last month.

The November 2026 election cycle begins in September 2025 with new rules in place. Let those games begin, and do so with an even playing field.

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Local News Network. Follow him on X @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.