Illinois Legislature's Idea of Election Reform Leaves a Lot to Be Desired

AP Photo/Morry Gash

Even before the election in November 2020, election integrity and election reform were hot topics. The scramble by many states to expand cheating voting opportunities — for safety reasons, of course — left many on the right side of the aisle calling for measures that would shore up the integrity of the voting process. And, in the wake of an extraordinarily contentious presidential election (not to mention the US Senate races in Georgia), many state legislatures have set about passing laws aimed at election reform.

Georgia, of course, about found itself virtually excommunicated from the union for having the audacity to implement some basic reforms. In Texas, Democrats are holding their breath and stomping their feet trying to prevent similar reforms from passing. As Bonchie noted earlier today, Governor Greg Abbott isn’t having it.

Here in Missouri, election integrity legislation didn’t make it to the finish line. (Don’t get me started on the wonders of a Republican “super-majority” state that can’t sell said majority on election reform, but can manage to pass a gas tax increase.)  However, as noted in that link, there are some rumblings of a special session being called.

In Illinois, there is also a push for election “reform.” The proposed reforms don’t strike me as aimed at shoring up integrity, however:

The new election bill would push back the 2022 primary from March 15th to June 28th, prolonging a primary contest where Republicans are angling to take control of one or more statewide offices.

The proposal would also grant voters “permanent vote-by-mail status” if they apply for it. The West amendment would require greater transparency from local political committees when they fill vacant seats in the General Assembly. It would also allow county sheriffs to set up a temporary polling place in their local jail for any suspects who are detained but not yet convicted.

Of course, just the ticket for ensuring a transparent and totally-above-board process — permanent vote-by-mail.

The bill could also grant voters with disabilities to someday vote by mail from home. Most voters with disabilities use touchscreen keypads or audio-assistive devices to aid them in casting ballots at polling locations. The West amendment would require the Illinois State Board of Elections to come up with a plan to e-mail vote-by-mail ballots to voters with disabilities, and allow them to “independently and privately mark a ballot using assistive technology in order for the voter to vote by mail.”

Color me skeptical. I’m all for making certain that the polls are readily accessible for those with disabilities. And I have no beef with allowing absentee voting for those who are homebound. But something about the way that’s worded has me wondering how expansive the definition of those who would qualify for this accommodation will be.

The new proposal would also encourage voter registration at high schools, require cybersecurity risk assessments and vulnerability scans of computer systems at election authorities, and would set up statewide policies and procedures for tracking ballots through the chain of custody from curbside pickup locations to election authorities.

In fairness, this last part doesn’t sound horrible (assuming they’re not pushing to lower the voting age). Still, I’m left with the sense that the “reforms” proposed by this bill are aimed less at “integrity” and more at a “permanent majority.”

Perhaps I shouldn’t be so jaded, but given the seeming penchant for corruption emanating out of Springfield (see here and here), it seems well-warranted. Will they get this done? They have ’til midnight tonight.