Court says cities won’t have to observe Election Day state holiday

(The Center Square) – A court in Sangamon Country ruled that a bill requiring additional closures on Election Day does not apply to municipalities.

The court case resulted from a bill passed by the General Assembly back in May requiring schools, universities and other facilities be closed to allow for use as polling stations, the State Journal-Register reported. The state observes Election Day as a holiday, but until the bill passed there was no question of it affecting local governments.

The Illinois Municipal League argued the law was vague and sought a clearer definition regarding what it meant to local governments.

“Our opinion is that the law was unclear and it did not in fact impact the municipal code, therefore local governments, specifically municipalities, could make that decision on their own,” said Brad Cole, executive director of the Illinois Municipal League.

The court agreed that the law in effect would be an unfunded mandate and was not what the lawmakers intended, the State Journal-Register reported.

“If they were forced to close and declare it a holiday, it would’ve significantly impacted collective bargaining agreements and their personnel agreements because the employees who had the day off would obviously have to be paid — it would’ve been a paid holiday — and then the employees that had to work, like public safety or public works personnel, who are required to work regardless of a holiday, would have to be paid holiday wages,” Cole said. “So the significant financial impact is what was driving this issue.”

Also at the heart of the issue is local governments’ authority to make local decisions that directly impact their residents, Cole said. This isn’t about what is good or bad for an election day, he said.

“Local governments provide services and programs to their residents,” Cole said. “Many of those residents require those services and rely on them on a daily basis.”

After to the court’s decision, municipalities are free to decide what’s best for their area on Nov. 3. While some do observe the state holiday, Cole said he expects many to remain open.

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