Next year’s primary election in Illinois won’t be held in March, as has been the norm for most of the last 50 years. Instead, it will be held June 28.
There are a host of election law changes in legislation passed this year and already signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Among them: making curbside and mail-in voting permanent, requiring sheriffs to permit voting by people held in jail but not convicted, and making next year’s general election date (Nov. 8) a state and school holiday.
But the change that may please the broad electorate the most is a more-than-three-month delay in the date of the primary election. Instead of falling on the third Tuesday in March, it will be held the fourth Tuesday in June. The change was necessitated by COVID-19 and delays in data collection from the 2020 Census. That, in turn, delayed the creation of new congressional district maps.
So instead of candidates circulating their petitions in late summer, they’ll have to do it in January and file them in early March in order to get on the primary election ballot. That’ll make it tougher on candidates but much easier on voters.
Not only is the weather much nicer in June than in March — remember early voting begins 40 days before Election Day — but holding the primary about four months before the general election compresses the entire election season. You won’t be hearing and seeing campaign ads for candidates from January into November next year. Instead, they might not start until April or May.
We’ve been here before. It’s only been for the last 50 years that Illinois held its primary in March (except for 2008, when it was held in February to give campaign momentum to presidential candidate Barack Obama). Before that, the primary election was mostly in mid-April, although it was twice held in mid-June in the 1960s, and from 1914 to 1918, it was in mid-September.
There already are complaints about holding such a late primary. Some election officials say they’ll have a difficult time finding judges to work while people are vacationing or are busy with summer activities. And University of Illinois students won’t be around Champaign-Urbana to volunteer and work for candidates here.
It’s already written in the election law that next year’s June primary is a one-timer. But if voters like the later primary and shorter election campaign season, and they let their elected officials know it, perhaps lawmakers will see the light.