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Lawmakers OK bill to require ‘faithful’ electors in 2024, loosen campaign finance rules

Lawmakers OK bill to require ‘faithful’ electors in 2024, loosen campaign finance rules

Legislative package also reforms voter list access, some local officials’ salaries

By ANDREW ADAMS
Capitol News Illinois
aadams@capitolnewsillinois.com

SPRINGFIELD — As the 2024 presidential election approaches, Illinois appears likely to join most of the rest of the country in requiring that the state’s Electoral College votes go to the winner of the state’s popular election.

The measure is part of a broad package of election-related legislation which also includes a provision loosening restrictions on what political parties can do with campaign funds and a state-level response to a controversy in the south suburbs.

The entire package was approved 51-3 in the Senate, with three Senators voting present. The House was more divided, passing the measure 68-38. The bill now goes to Gov. JB Pritzker for final approval before becoming law.

In United States presidential elections, voters on Election Day cast a vote for president, but also for electors associated with a particular candidate. Legally, these electors are the ones who actually cast a deciding vote in the presidential election, usually in mid-December.

The bill would require the state’s electors to take a new pledge prior to appearing on the ballot. Failing to honor the pledge under the proposal would result in them being removed from their position and replaced with an alternate elector.

These electors have been under increased scrutiny in the past decade, due in large part to the 2016 election, which saw Donald Trump win the presidency despite losing the popular vote – the fourth such occurrence in U.S. history.

While Illinois has never had an elector vote for someone who didn’t win the popular vote, other states have, including seven electors from three states in 2016.

The legislation concerning the Electoral College is based on model legislation that has been adopted in 12 other states, according to the Chicago-based Uniform Law Commission , which published the model law in 2010.

“The purpose of it is to make sure the popular vote is protected by electors in the Electoral College,” Rep. Daniel Didech, D-Buffalo Grove said Saturday in an interview.

Didech was not formally a sponsor of the package but is a delegate to the Uniform Law Commission and introduced the model bill as separate legislation last year.

If the measure is signed, Illinois would join 33 other states with laws in place requiring electors to vote for the candidates that they pledged to support, according to a March analysis of state laws by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

After the 2020 election, while no electors cast “faithless” votes, the Electoral College again became the focus of controversy. Some allies of Donald Trump allegedly orchestrated a scheme to send a slate of electors outside of the legal process, thereby securing a second Trump term in 2020.

Eighteen people, including Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, were indicted in Arizona state court on charges related to the scheme in April of this year.



Party campaign funds

The bill also removes a restriction on the way political parties handle primary campaigns. Under the proposal, candidates for state and federal office would be able to accept an unlimited amount of campaign cash from political parties.

Currently, candidates can receive unlimited support during a general election, but in primaries, parties are capped on contributing to individual candidates. For example, prospective members of the House are limited to $75,000, candidates for Senate and Supreme Court are limited to $125,000, and statewide candidates are limited to $200,000.

“What we have now came from another era,” bill sponsor Rep. Maurice West, D-Rockford, said during floor debate on Saturday. “We do not see the need for that cap any longer.”

This provision was met with pushback from Republicans, who pointed to former House Speaker Michael Madigan, who is awaiting trial on bribery and racketeering charges. He was known for his use of the Democratic Party of Illinois’ campaign war chest as a lever to exert control over his caucus.

“The former leader of your Democrat Party, that you want to give all this control, is on the brink of going to prison, we hope. He should,” Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City, said. “Why in the world would we be making these organizations more powerful than they already are? Were they not powerful enough before?”

The primary cap was initially codified in 2009 as part of a sweeping reform campaign championed by then-Gov. Pat Quinn. Quinn signed the law less than a year after taking over the governorship from Rod Blagojevich, who was sent to prison for corruption related charges.

Reform for Illinois, an advocacy group known for backing ethics and campaign reform, condemned the move in a statement published Tuesday.

“It’s a step backward that will increase legislative leaders’ power over their members while supercharging the election money arms race and depriving constituents of the chance to be represented by more independent candidates,” Alisa Kaplan, the head of the organization, said.

 

Voter rolls

The legislation also codifies that the public has access to the state’s voter registration list. The database, which is required by federal law and routinely shared with local governments and political committees, is tightly protected by the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Prior to a 2020 lawsuit brought by the conservative Public Interest Legal Foundation, digital copies of the voter registration database were restricted to only government entities and registered political committees.

The bill codifies a court order from that lawsuit requiring the public have access to a redacted database – after paying a fee. Members of the public can also inspect the voter database for accuracy in-person at the Springfield board of elections office.

The bill also lays out what voter information cannot be used for: “any personal, private, or commercial purpose, including, but not limited to, the intimidation, threat, or deception of any person or the advertising, solicitation, sale, or marketing of products or services.”

The voter rolls have been the subject of a recent controversy following their allegedly illegal publication on a series of websites that have been characterized as a conservative influence operation.

Those websites are published by Local Government Information Services, a company backed by one-time candidate for governor and longtime Republican activist Dan Proft.

Read more: Election officials to weigh whether Darren Bailey and GOP operative Dan Proft illegally coordinated

LGIS’ publication of the voter information initially included dates of birth. Earlier this month, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul sued the company for publishing the data. After a court order requiring the company to take down the information, LGIS removed birth dates from their websites.

As of Wednesday morning, voters’ names and street addresses were still accessible on several of its websites.

Illinois State Board of Elections spokesperson Matt Dietrich told Capitol News Illinois that the voter database provision of the law was written, in part, as a response to the LGIS lawsuit.

 

Springfield’s response to ‘super mayor’

Another piece would require that the compensation for township supervisors in Cook County may not be increased during a term. An outgoing supervisor would also be prohibited from lowering the salary for their successor without lowering their own salary.

The bill echoes a situation in Chicago’s south suburbs centered on Dolton Mayor and Thornton Township Supervisor Tiffany Henyard, who styles herself as a “super mayor” on social media.

Late last year, Henyard proposed a measure that would decrease the salary of Thornton Township supervisor from $224,000 to $25,000, but only for non-incumbents, meaning her salary would remain unchanged, even if she was reelected, according to reporting from Fox32.

While West didn’t mention Henyard specifically, he suggested that the measure was in response to a real-world situation that he described as “a way of being spiteful.”

Henyard has also faced criticism for using taxpayer funds for billboards promoting herself and was sued by a local bar which claimed she denied the business a permit because it didn’t contribute to her election campaign.


Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of print and broadcast outlets statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

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Andrew Adams

Andrew AdamsAndrew Adams

Andrew has experience covering cities and communities throughout Illinois and his stories have appeared in papers from Chicago to Effingham. His unique blend of data-driven and traditional reporting help identify the throughlines of policy and politics.

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