With less than six months until the general election, a measure to expand Illinois’ vote-by-mail program was advanced by a House committee on Thursday, a move Gov. J.B. Pritzker believes will help residents leery of entering physical polling locations amid the coronavirus pandemic be heard.
The legislation would ensure everyone that applied for a ballot in the 2018 general election, 2019 municipal elections or the March primaries would receive a vote-by-mail application via mail or email for the Nov. 3 general election.
At Thursday’s coronavirus press briefing, Pritzker called the program a bipartisan compromise, as the effort to expand voting by mail has become a nation-wide debate between political parties.
“Republicans generally speaking, have been in favor of suppressing the vote, all across the nation, they think it's bad for them if more people vote,” Pritzker said. “I think everybody has the right to vote. We live in a democracy. The vote is sacred.”
Republicans, led by President Donald Trump argue voting by mail could lead to fraud, and on Wednesday, President Trump threatened to withhold federal funds to Michigan and Nevada, two states looking to expand voting by mail as a safety precaution during the coronavirus crisis.
On Thursday, Pritzker acknowledged Illinois may be next to receive similar intimidation and added he believes there’s no hypocrisy for criticizing those threats while making his own to local governments that don’t comply with the state-wide stay-at-home order.
“The President is threatening to take away funds from states doing something that's legal,” Pritzker said.” Holding up funding for local governments, because they're not following the law, that's a much different thing.”
“I think it's very important for people to get access to the ballot. The President doesn't want that, I do want people to get a ballot, and to vote and that's just an enormous, enormous ideological difference. I believe in democracy and the right to vote.”