Opinion: 2010 primary needs to be rescheduled

March 26, 2009
Statement from the Clerk

Legislators in Illinois must act quickly to avert a looming problem with the 2010 gubernatorial primary. Currently scheduled for February, it should be later in the year. An early winter primary poses unnecessary difficulties for election administrators -- and voters -- in Illinois. Besides Governor Quinn's call for a later primary, this issue has gotten scant attention.

A later primary would effect a kind of campaign finance reform. As currently planned, a February 2, 2010 Gubernatorial primary means that Early Voting begins January 11 -- nearly 10 months before before the November 2010 election. During that time, Illinois voters would be subjected to radio and TV campaign ads, direct mail and robo-calls, plus solicitations for cash to underwrite these assaults. Moving the primary to May or June could save candidates and their supporters millions of dollars.

For those of us running elections, a later primary would improve election judge recruitment. Right now, hundreds of our judges are retirees, many of whom spend the harshest months of winter in a milder climate. They simply can't work in February. Even worse, the vagaries of winter weather could wreak havoc with our judge training schedule. One week of storms could mean a thousand judges miss classes, leaving them unprepared to manage their precincts on Election Day.

A later primary would also be a boost to democracy. It's no secret that hostile weather keeps voters at home on Election Day, and February is among the worst weather months. Ice-encased windshields, train delays and drifted-over parking spots are as likely as not. If we truly want voters to come to the polls, we need to open them in friendlier weather.

Of course, there are some who benefit from the status quo. A February primary comes on the heels of the holiday season, when fewer people are attending to politics. Some political insiders may like it that way.

I firmly believe that Illinois politics needs less money and more voting. While the legislature needs to debate the best time for a primary, be it May, June or August, clearly February is a bust. A spring gubernatorial primary would take place in the best season for voting -- and reform -- in Illinois.

David Orr
Cook County Clerk