Thursday, March 11, 2010

March primary bill will impact judicial retention elections as well

The Chicago Tribune reports today that the Illinois General Assembly has approved and sent to Governor Quinn for signature a bill that will move the Illinois primary back to the third Tuesday in March.

For those newly arrived from Mars, the Illinois primary was moved to the first Tuesday in February in 2008 to enhance the electoral prospects of Barack Obama. With Mr. Obama safely in the White House, the early primary date is no longer needed.

But SB355 also changes the deadline for judges deciding whether to seek retention. The bill will amend Section 7A-1 of the Election Code (10 ILCS 5/7A-1) as follows (new language shown by underline; deleted language shown by strikeout):
Any Supreme, Appellate or Circuit Judge who has been elected to that office and who seeks to be retained in that office under subsection (d) of Section 12 of Article VI of the Constitution shall file a declaration of candidacy to succeed himself in the office of the Secretary of State not less than 6 months on or before the first Monday in December before the general election preceding the expiration of his term of office.
With this change, incumbent judges get more time to decide whether to seek retention. A judge who chooses to wait until the new deadline to decide against seeking retention would create a fairly long-term vacancy for the Supreme Court to fill. As a practical matter, though, will this really result in significantly more -- and longer -- interim vacancies?

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