Today outgoing Governor Pat Quinn signed two election bills into law, 1) HB4576, which passed both chambers during a special session on Thursday, that will allow for a special election for certain constitutional offices under certain circumstances and will result in a special election in 2016 for Comptroller to fill the remaining term of the late Judy Baar Topinka, and 2) SB172 the omnibus elections bill that was passed during veto session which has received the most attention for making same day registration permanent but also makes changes to vote by mail, early voting, college campus voting, vote counting procedures and election administrative changes.
For anyone who followed the lengthy vote counting process in the very close 2014 State Treasurer's race SB172 includes some changes that will make more vote counting information available for any similar situations in the future. Here is a rundown for both bills.
This bill is pretty straightforward, this about covers it:
Provides that if there are more than 28 months remaining in the term of office for Secretary of State, State Comptroller, Treasurer or Attorney General, the appointed office holder shall serve until the next general election, at which time the office shall be filled by special election for the remainder of the term. Provides for nominations for special elections to fill the unexpired term of a vacant office. Effective immediately.
- Same Day Registration (Grace Period Registration): extends grace period registration up to and including election day. Election authorities in counties with a population of greater than 100,000 or election authorities that have electronic poll books must offer in-precinct same day registration. Election authorities in counties with a population less than 100,000 that do not have electronic poll books may opt out of in-precinct same day registration but they must offer same day registration at their main office and must include a location in any municipality where 20% or more of the county's residents reside.
- ERIC Registration: beginning in 2016 requires participation in the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) system.
- National Change of Address check: requires the SBE to perform a check of the Postal Service's National Change of Address database to find voters who have moved. Voters who have changed their address will be automatically re-registered at their new address after being given an opportunity to opt out
- State Websites: requires all executive department websites to link to the statewide online voter registration.
- Phone App: requires the SBE to develop a phone app for voter registration.
- Government Offices: requires that when a person is interacting with a state agency online or at their government office they can easily register to vote or update their registration.
- Provisional Voting: a voter attempting same day registration on election day that does not have the necessary documentation may still vote provisionally. That voter will then have 7 days to submit the proper documentation to their election authority.
- Early Voting: early voting now runs up to and including the day before election day. During the final week of early voting the locations must be open until 7pm on weekdays. Saturdays are 9am - noon and Sundays are 10am - 4pm. Permanent sites must offer grace period registration. Each election authority must provide the SBE a list of early voting locations and hours, the SBE will make this info available on their website.
- Vote By Mail: ballots must now be postmarked no later than election day (it used to be the day before), ballots can be delivered by any carrier, ballots may be returned in person to the election authority by any authorized person (previously only family members) and election authorities must print the amount of postage required on the return envelope.
- Campus Voting: early voting and grace period registration must be available in the student union Wed - Fri from 10am to 5pm before a general primary or general election but not during a consolidated election.
- Ballot Processing: election authorities may process ballots up to 15 days prior to election day but they may not count/tabulate the ballots until after the polls close.
- Uncounted Ballot Disclosure: after election day each election authority must report to the SBE the number of uncounted ballots and the SBE must make this info available on their website.
- Announcements: election authorities must provide at least 24 hours advance notice the date, time and location where they will analyze, cast or count any centrally located ballots and they must send email notification to anyone requesting notification.
- Wrong Precinct: codifies current SBE rules regarding counting ballots cast in the wrong precinct.
- Eliminates "Absentee Voting": removes any references to "absentee voting" which is now obsolete and has been replaced by early voting and vote by mail.
- Polling Places: requires election authorities to disclose polling places that designate their entire property as campaign free.
- Petitions: clarifies the SBE's jurisdiction over petitions for the General Assembly when the districts are not entirely within Cook County, sets the signature requirements for Chicago aldermen (473 signatures) and eliminates the requirement that statewide advisory referendum petitions must be segregated by election jurisdiction.
- Election Judges: in Cook County the township and ward committeemen now have final approval of partisan election judges (used to be the county chairman).
- "I Voted" Stickers: if an election authority distributes "I Voted" stickers must make them available to all voters.
- Pollwatchers: cleaned up language on pollwatchers watching the casting of vote by mail ballots in a precinct on election day.