Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday signed a measure to move the state's primary election from March to June next year, among other changes aimed at expanding voting access.
Senate Bill 825 shifts what would have been the March 15 primary to June 28 as lawmakers await census data, delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, to redraw district maps.
The bill also includes plans to make curbside voting a permanent fixture, to create polling places in certain jails to allow individuals awaiting trial to vote and to make the Nov. 8, 2022, general election a state holiday, as it was in 2020.
It also "establishes new cyber security requirements for election authorities" and "requires every county to have one universal voting center for the 2022 primary and general election," according to Rep. Maurice West, a sponsor of the bill.
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The measure also requires election authorities to make voting by mail - which increased exponentially during the 2020 election cycle due to the pandemic - a more convenient option by creating a permanent vote-by-mail list to which voters can request to be added so that they will receive their ballot by mail in each election, rather than having to apply to vote by mail every time.
“With attacks on voting rights on the rise in states across the nation, Illinois is proud to stand up for a strong, secure, and accessible democracy,” Pritzker said in a statement.
“This legislation articulates the rights of Illinois citizens to vote by mail, allows those awaiting trial to cast their ballots, and makes a state holiday of Election Day 2022."
With the date change for the primary election would come a host of other changes to the schedule of the election cycle.
Under the proposal, petitions from candidates would begin on Jan. 13 and be filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections between March 7 and 14, residents would be able to seek vote-by-mail ballots beginning March 30 and no later than June 23, and in-person early voting would begin May 19 - among other changes.
The measure comes as lawmakers await the release of "block-level" population and demographic data from the 2020 Census, which is not scheduled to be released until mid-August at the earliest.
The data is usually given to states in March each year following the Census, in time for states to use it in the redistricting process. But this cycle's delay puts the data release well after the June 30 deadline for new maps that's mandated in the Illinois Constitution.