CHICAGO – A federal judge has declared the state’s Election Day voter registration law unconstitutional, but the appeals process continues.
The ruling from Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan came Tuesday in response to a lawsuit filed by Patrick Harlan, the Galesburg Republican facing 17th District U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos in November. The Crawford County Republican Central Committee also was a plaintiff.
Harlan is president of the Knox County Tea Party. The legal work was done by the Liberty Justice Center, which is affiliated with the Illinois Policy Institute, a nonprofit conservative think tank based in Chicago.
The lawsuit challenged a state law passed and signed by former Gov. Pat Quinn a few days before he left office. The law requires counties with a population of more than 100,000 to offer voter registration at the polls on Election Day, while smaller counties don’t have to provide the service. Only 20 of the state’s 102 counties were required to set up for same-day registration.
The extra cost and a shortage of polling workers made it difficult to give rural voters equal opportunity to register on Election Day.
Many Republicans said the law was politically motivated and hurt the GOP.
“Every state senator and representative who voted for this scheme was a Democrat, and not coincidentally, high-population counties in Illinois tend to favor Democratic candidates, while low-population counties in Illinois tend to favor Republicans,” Liberty Justice Center said in its filing.
The court, in its ruling, said the law improperly favors urban citizens and dilutes the vote of the rural citizen.
“The court recognized the unfairness of guaranteeing a voting right to some voters but not others,” said Jacob Huebert, the lead attorney for Liberty Justice Center.
Harlan called the ruling a great constitutional victory, but admitted he was pleasantly surprised.
“I was expecting it to be pushed under the rug, but it’s a huge relief to see we had an independent judge who was willing to hold up the Constitution,” Harlan said.
Although his campaign could benefit from the ruling, that wasn’t his main objective in filing the lawsuit, he said.
“This might help me a little, but I want to see Mike Madigan’s supermajority broken in Springfield,” Harlan said. “They need to be able to compromise again so they can get something done.”
There wasn’t much time for Harlan to celebrate the victory, however, before the appeals process began. The Illinois attorney general’s office called for Der-Yeghiayan to reverse the decision soon after the ruling was handed down.
Lisa Madigan’s office argued that getting rid of same-day registration so close to the Nov. 8 election was unfair to citizens who thought they had the option, thereby restricting voters’ rights.
In a short hearing Thursday in Chicago federal court, the request was denied. In the latest ruling, the same judge wrote: “This court did not restrict the rights of any voters. The legislation did.”
The attorney general’s office said it also plans to appeal to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In Whiteside County
Whiteside County Clerk Dana Nelson said there had been some Election Day voter registration options in the March primary election.
Same-day registration was offered at both Whiteside County Courthouses – in Morrison because it is the county seat, and in Sterling because at least 20 percent of the county’s population is there.
Why wait to vote? You can do it now
CHICAGO (AP) – Illinois voters can begin casting their ballots for the Nov. 8 election.
Early, in-person voting started Thursday in Illinois and runs through Nov. 7.
In many of Illinois’ most populous counties, election officials will be operating multiple early voting centers. Some will be open on Saturdays.
In rural areas, voters will cast ballots at their county clerk’s office.
Voters can find an early voting location by visiting the Illinois State Board of Elections website at elections.il.gov.