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Friday, March 1, 2013

Proposed Legislation Would Abolish Local Electoral Boards

In Illinois, when an objection is filed to a local government candidate's nominating papers, a local electoral board is convened to conduct a hearing and make a decision on the objection.  The local electoral board is made up of the mayor, clerk, and senior trustee in a municipality and the township supervisor, clerk, and senior trustee in a township. 
The composition of a particular electoral board convened to hear an objection can raise allegations of conflicts and bias of its members.  The Election Code addresses the situation where a member of the electoral board is a candidate for the same office as the candidate whose papers are being objected to. That person is statutorily ineligible to serve on that electoral board.  In addition, officials can be disqualified if they are necessary witnesses to the electoral board proceeding.  A perceived political bias of a particular member or board is not a valid basis to disqualify a member from serving on an electoral board, however.  That is true even if an electoral board member is a member of a competing party to the candidate or candidates being challenged. 
House Bill 2636 would abolish municipal, township, and community college electoral boards and require all objections to candidates for public office in these entities to be heard by the county officers electoral board.  The county officers electoral board is made up of the county clerk or designee, the states attorney or assistant states attorney, and the dircuit court clerk or designee, except in counties that have established a board of election commissioners to hear these objections.
There are still a number of unanswered questions about the proposed legislation, particularly as they relate to how the local election official is to process the objections, including receipt, service, and scheduling of hearings.  Given the sheer number of local objections filed each election cycle, this change will have a significant impact on counties who will be tasked with these additional responsibilities and hearings, all of which must take place in a very short period of time based on the statutory deadlines for transmitting, noticing, and hearing these objections.  This isn't the first time similar legislation has been introduced in the General Assembly, so this bill may not gain any traction.
We will certainly keep an eye on this piece of legislation.


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