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How will county parties hold legally mandated conventions on April 15th?

Monday, Mar 30, 2020

* 10 ILCS 5/7-9

On the 29th day next succeeding the primary at which committeepersons are elected, the county central committee of each political party shall meet within the county and proceed to organize by electing from its own number a chair and either from its own number, or otherwise, such other officers as such committee may deem necessary or expedient. Such meeting of the county central committee shall be known as the county convention.

That statute, in other words, requires individual county party conventions on April 15. The governor’s stay at home order is set to expire on April 7, but he’ll undoubtedly extend it that day, when he’s legally able to renew his state disaster declaration. So, how are the parties gonna get that done?

I reached out to both major parties for a response.

* Dan Kovats at the Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association…

We’re doing the best we can given the current circumstances. We have provided some guidance to the County Chairs regarding the upcoming County Convention. We are encouraging the Chairs to adhere to the statute while also adhering to the Governor’s stay at home order. We are strongly encouraging only electing the County Chair & Party Treasurer to comply with the statute.

Some of the options we shared include:

    1. Proxy voting or Voting by Mail
    2. Virtual Meeting (conference call or video conference)

Ultimately it will come down to each County Parties bylaws and at the discretion of the County Chair.

Kovats said some county parties do require in-person conventions “and we have asked them to consider suspending that portion of their bylaws.”

But how do they do that if they can’t meet in person?…

That’s the difficult spot we’re in and why we tried to provide options for the Chairs.

…Adding… The full guidance sent to Democratic chairs is here.

* The ILGOP’s general counsel sent a memo to county chairs days ago. Excerpt

Other than the requirement that conventions be held on a particular date, the Election Code only directs that a county convention elect a county chairman, select delegates to the state convention and shall be held “within the county.” There is no statutory requirement that a convention must be conducted in any particular manner. In other words, for county organizations without bylaws that might direct otherwise, a convention could possibly be conducted by a conference call (so long as all participants are within the county), or by use of absentee ballots or other methods to elect a chairman and to conduct business. As for the requirement that state convention delegates are chosen at the county convention, that task may be delegated (as has traditionally been the case) to county chairmen if necessary. Of course, all notice requirements must be adhered to, as always.

For counties with bylaws that dictate how their conventions are to be run, those bylaws will control, and county organizations should abide by them.

I asked the same follow-up question to the ILGOP’s Joe Hackler about counties with in-person meeting requirements. His response…

There may be a few that explicitly require personal presence for participation. However, each of these counties conventions would conceivably have a rules committee that could possibly help offer some relief.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

6 Comments
  1. - JB13 - Monday, Mar 30, 20 @ 1:08 pm:

    Good to know that some participants in Illinois’ political system haven’t just checked out and are actually trying to find ways to accomplish the things that need to be done, rather than just shrugging their shoulders, because finding workable solutions within the constitution are just too hard.


  2. - Just Another Anon - Monday, Mar 30, 20 @ 2:39 pm:

    That’s the tough part about when state law says “make your own specific rules to fill in the gaps”. I mean, I guess you could get a Declaratory judgment in court permitting a rescheduled convention.


  3. - Practical Politics - Monday, Mar 30, 20 @ 3:05 pm:

    Good post. I had thought about the difficulties that conducting such a convention would entail during the pandemic.


  4. - Been There - Monday, Mar 30, 20 @ 9:35 pm:

    I say find the biggest parking lot you can find in your county and have everyone park 20 feet apart. Have the chair conduct a quick meeting with a bullhorn and just count hands on any vote.


  5. - Been There - Monday, Mar 30, 20 @ 9:36 pm:

    Actually the GA could consider this also. Pretty sure there is no requirement to actually be under a roof to conduct business. Just be in person.


  6. - justanother guy - Tuesday, Mar 31, 20 @ 8:48 am:

    If third party/independents can’t petition to get on the ballot, then the 2 major parties shouldn’t be allowed to hold county conventions. Plain and simple.


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