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Time to rethink legislative replacement process?

Tuesday, Jun 25, 2019

* We’ve had a spate of legislative retirements, so this is worth a look

According to Ballotpedia, Illinois is one of just four states — along with Indiana, North Dakota and Colorado — in which party officials fill legislative vacancies. In seven other states, county boards fill those jobs. In 10 states, it’s the governor’s responsibility to make an appointment. And in three states, a hybrid system is used.

One state, Ohio, allows a vote by the legislative chamber to make appointments. But a full 25 states hold special elections when a vacancy occurs.

In Connecticut, the governor must call for a special election within 10 days of a vacancy occurring and the balloting must take place within the next 46 days. If a vacancy occurs with fewer than 125 days before the next general election, then the special election coincides with that general election.

In Cook County, ward and township committeemen fill legislative vacancies. Outside Cook, party chairs play that role.

Thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller        

43 Comments
  1. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 8:38 am:

    I don’t see significant problems with the current system. If it ain’t broken, why fix it?


  2. - @misterjayem - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 8:39 am:

    What problem would a change purport to solve?

    – MrJM


  3. - Andy Pendant - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 8:39 am:

    I have a difficult time understanding the justification for a weighted vote by committeemen when one of them has more than 50%. That’s probably something that should change.


  4. - Interested Citizen - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 8:42 am:

    Process is broken. Often time these party committees use political appointments to ward their political allies or family members with jobs, skirting any public input and sometimes constitutional residency requirements. Look at recent Chicago state legislative appointments on south (senate district 13) and west (house district 10) sides.


  5. - NeverPoliticallyCorrect - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 8:45 am:

    Oh it’s broken alright. This system supports the idea that voters vote a party in and that is not the intent of the election. Voters select a person. It’s time for a change but why would the power brokers want to change what works so well for them. OH, that’s right, they wouldn’t.


  6. - A Jack - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 8:54 am:

    The system does need to change. Often seats are inherited and the new incumbent has an unfair advantage when there is an election. So you end up with dynasties for certain political families. I don’t think the Governor should have the power to appoint the replacement. Special elections are the most fair, but do cost money.


  7. - People caring loudly - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 8:57 am:

    I guess I have some questions about how it would play out when the party in control of the county board is not the same as the vacating member, e.g. would the Republicans been comfortable with the Cook County Board replacing McAuliffe?


  8. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 8:59 am:

    I have no real problem with the process as constituted.

    Why?

    These new appointees will face the voters and maybe competition next cycle. That allows the heck and balance.

    Would it be nice to have a special election? Sure. More directly democratic in the immediate, but that new appointee will face the voters soon enough.


  9. - Fax Machine - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 9:11 am:

    I don’t have a huge problem with it. Once appointed the new appointee is the most junior member of their chamber, so the Committeemen are literally appointing the least significant person in Springfield.

    Plus the Committeemen are elected so it is indirectly democratic.


  10. - NIU Grad - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 9:24 am:

    With all of the resignations we have around here, I don’t think a special election process would be practical. I would prefer county chairs, with weighted vote given by district population in each county the district is in. This would allow the party to engage in the primary process to choose who they want…instead of the backroom choice having an instant advantage in the primary.


  11. - Not a Billionaire - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 9:25 am:

    And chairs are elected by precinct committee and their votes are in proportion to county vote of population can’t remember what. It’s some real power that gets people to run for these party jobs. ….with patronage so limited…..


  12. - Not a Billionaire - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 9:27 am:

    Special elections favor the connected as well though and have such low turnout. Also a lot of seats are left unfilled. There is no good way to do these vacancies.


  13. - Interested - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 9:28 am:

    Leave it alone.


  14. - West Town TB - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 9:39 am:

    The problem comes when the resignations happen right after an election. That is done only with the purpose to take any decision away from voters.


  15. - AlienOverlord - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 9:41 am:

    Any way to lessen the power of the machine would probably be an improvement. None of the options are perfect, but the current setup is baaaaaaaad


  16. - Anyone Remember - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 9:41 am:

    As an out of state immigrant, special elections, just like the US House. Allowing parties (whether directly or indirectly) to appoint replacements produces loyal party drones. How many county-wide officials in Sangamon County were originally appointed, not elected?


  17. - The young gov - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 9:42 am:

    If anything, people need to pay more attention to the importance of committeepeople: get involved in their local democratic organizations, make sure they are electing local political organization leadership and committeepeople that are aligned with their values/real democratic values. This is all from my dem-oriented perspective of course.


  18. - Amalia - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 9:47 am:

    to the average voter, what is especially weird is the weighted vote. Aldermen in Chicago each have the same vote. but the weighted vote comes into play here, making one ward have more power than another when entire, or most of, wards are in a district. should we have weighted vote in city council?


  19. - Thomas Paine - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 10:02 am:

    The problem is “musical chairs”.

    I run for re-election, step aside from Congress, in exchange for backing your county board member for Congress, you back Tony’s state senator for County Board, Frank’s state rep is appointed for the senate vacancy, and we name my daughter state rep.

    Some variation of that has played out often.

    What if the vote were weighted with both Democrats and Republicans filling the vacancy? So if I run for Congress and get 60% of the vote, my GOP county chairs get to split up 60 percent of the vote geographically while the Democrats split up 40 percent of the vote geographically.

    The most important fix BTW is stripping the mayor of power to fill aldermanic posts.

    I feel like in Chicago they would get a better result for Alderman if they just put the names in a hat of everyone that voted in the ward in the last election and was interested and drew a name.


  20. - TopHatMonocle - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 10:03 am:

    It’s likely that whoever the committeemen support would win a special election anyways. Leave it.


  21. - Keyrock - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 10:11 am:

    The current system furthers the perception that Illinois government runs on the principle that “we don’t want nobody nobody sent.”
    A special election or appointment by the governor has potential flaws, too. But the current approach minimizes public confidence in the fairness of the system — particularly when one relative or other insider follows another.


  22. - Just Me 2 - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 10:26 am:

    It should be an elected office, just like Congress.


  23. - Lt. Guv - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 10:33 am:

    “Let it be.”


  24. - Sly fox - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 10:45 am:

    In Effingham County,a Democrat resigns a County Office,the Republican Bd appointed a Republican to that position.


  25. - siriusly - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 10:48 am:

    It’s not the worst process. I think it’s actually better than the local government replacement process. A mayor or a county board chair gets to appoint someone to a vacancy - they already owe that person something. At least when the local political party makes the appointment - that person owes the locals.

    Why should a government body get to choose its own members? the local govt appointment process is far less ethical in my opinion


  26. - Stormfield - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 10:51 am:

    The good news about the current system is that it is probably the most cost-effective. Special elections are expensive. A change in the system to require a special election may be most ideal scenario, but would also cost the most. There would likely be some pushback from the local level as well; it would be viewed as an unfunded mandate by the counties, whose Clerk’s offices would bear the majority of the cost.


  27. - Token Conservative - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 10:52 am:

    I would love a more grassroots way of doing things, but it’s hard to imagine a special election being worth the local government expense for a


  28. - PrairieDog - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 11:18 am:

    Whatever its flaws, the current system is not worse than the mentioned alternatives. While a special election would seem to be the best solution, people already complain about too-frequent elections, and turnout tends to be low.


  29. - Amalia - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 11:43 am:

    announce when and where the meeting will be held to decide. invite anyone to speak on the candidates. vote in public. as long as we have this system, make it public.


  30. - DIstant watcher - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 12:14 pm:

    Special elections are (1) expensive, (2) poorly attended, and (3) prone to the same charge that the current system is: that the current political power structure can get their voters out while others can’t mobilize that quickly. Whiners gonna whine; leave things alone.


  31. - T.J. Brown - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 12:19 pm:

    Committeemen should be excluded from voting when they are the representative resigning or they are the proposed replacement.


  32. - Not a Billionaire - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 12:21 pm:

    Distant is so right. And speak of local it’s hard to find anyone downstate for most of these jobs.My wife is a small county elected official it’s tough to fill vacancies. In the future everyone will be forced to hold 15 minutes of elected office.


  33. - CT Resident - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 12:26 pm:

    I guess it wouldn’t be such an issue with some if the general voters knew more or cared more about their committeemen (speaking for Chicago/Cook County.)

    Having the seat open until the next election (no representation for who knows how long) or even having a series of costly special elections (with even less turnout and still would favors those already with connections/power) to fill isn’t good either IMO.


  34. - LTSW - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 12:29 pm:

    I would bet there would be a lot fewer mid term resignations if there had to be a special election.


  35. - Charlie Brown - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 12:55 pm:

    @Not a Billion - The thread topic is filling legislative vacancies. Of course people want the job.

    I think LTSW nailed it. When the Lou Langs of the world no longer gets to pick their replacement, whether directly or indirectly, we will see far fewer mid-term resignations I suspect.


  36. - Steve - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 1:24 pm:

    There’s nothing really wrong with the current system. Special elections cost money, money Illinois doesn’t have.


  37. - Shemp - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 1:26 pm:

    Special election if more than 1 year left. Leave open if less than a year (it would be open for a while anyway while a special election was held or while people debated who to appoint)


  38. - GOPgal - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 1:37 pm:

    Recall until several years ago it used to be a bit more democratic. Precinct committeemen outside of Cook also had a vote on replacements. Then law was changed to consolidate the power in just the county chairs, who often just choose themselves.


  39. - Nitemayor - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 2:39 pm:

    My recollection is that if it’s a 4 year term and the vacancy occurs less than 2 years into the term, the appointee, and anyone else, has to run for a 2 year term. The cost of a special election, with a probable turnout of 10 to 15%, is not cost effective.


  40. - NotAnonymous - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 3:13 pm:

    I like the current process of appointment but would like to see more transparency and allow for public input.


  41. - West Wing - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 4:05 pm:

    The current process rewards nepotism, which is what Illinois is famous for, so why change it? Comments on here are hilarious. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” How about can we get away from this game on thrones rigged politics in this state?


  42. - Candy Dogood - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 4:39 pm:

    I’m not from Illinois. I’m from one of those 25 states that does a special election.

    I’m in favor of a special election because I think the voters should have the opportunity to decide who represents them rather county chairs, etc.

    I am baffled by the profound tendency for my fellow Illinoisans to be okay with their legislators being replaced by the cousins, children, and assorted family members of the politically well connected.

    Also, I am repulsed by the idea that a legislator can be pressured to retire so that a handful of people can replace that legislator with a zealot that would be unable to win on the ballot.


  43. - M - Tuesday, Jun 25, 19 @ 5:42 pm:

    Back in the old days the governor use to appoint the replacement when someone died or retired before their term was up. If the person whom left a vacancy was a Democrat then their replacement had to be another Democrat and so forth.


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