On January 10, the United States government sued the Illinois State Board of Elections over the state’s timing for the special U.S. House election to fill the vacant 2nd district seat. The seat is vacant because Jesse Jackson, Jr., was re-elected in November 2012 but then he resigned.
Federal law requires overseas absentee ballots to be mailed at least 45 days before any federal election or federal primary. The U.S. government charges that Illinois has not complied with this law in connection with the February 26 Democratic and Republican primaries, and the U.S. government also foresees that Illinois won’t be complying with the federal law in connection with the election either. Because candidates in the special primary must submit petitions, and then these petitions must go through the challenge process, Illinois can’t know who will be on the primary ballots until after the challenge process is complete. The challenge period can’t even start until the primary petitions are filed on January 14. Yet the 45-day deadline means that the ballots should have been mailed by January 12.
The case is United States of America v State of Illinois, U.S. District Court, northern district, 1:13cv-189. If the Illinois legislature had passed HB 2854 in 2011, it wouldn’t have this problem. HB 2854, by Representative Jim Watson, would have permitted candidates to get on the ballot by paying a fee instead of filing a petition. Thanks to Andy Finko for this news.