Chicago election officials said they asked Gov. J.B. Pritzker to postpone Illinois’ primary election, but were rebuffed and reportedly threatened with a charge of voter suppression.
Chicago voters had been met with dozens of precinct closures at the beginning of Tuesday’s primary election. A spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners told the Chicago Tribune that election officials saw more than 850 previously committed election workers call off amid concerns about the new coronavirus. The Cook County Clerk’s office was forced to move more than 80 polling locations and there were reports of some precincts not receiving voting well into voting hours.
Chicago Board of Elections spokesman Jim Allen told reporters in Chicago that the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners had asked Pritzker to postpone the in-person election voting in light of the ongoing pandemic and the governor refused.
As of Tuesday morning, Ohio, Georgia and Louisiana had announced they would postpone their primaries.
Pritzker’s chief of staff took to Twitter Tuesday refuting the claim.
“This is a lie,” the governor’s Chief of Staff Anne Caprara wrote. “And frankly, given what we are dealing with in this moment, I’m disgusted that Jim Allen would lie like this. We offered them the national guard, young volunteers and assistance with keeping polling places clean. The Governor has been trying to balance continuity of government, not disenfranchising people who already voted, avoiding a legal crisis & keeping everyone safe. The Chicago Board of Elections have been worried about scoring cheap political points.”
Pritzker has said multiple times in his daily briefings on COVID-19 that elections are a “pillar of democracy” and that he couldn’t move them even if he wanted to.
Illinois statute appears to address this issue. 10 ILCS 5/20-25 states:
“In the event of a deployment of the United States Armed Forces or the declaration of an emergency by the President of the United States or the Governor of Illinois, The Governor or the executive director of the State Board of Elections may modify the registration and voting procedures established by this Article or by rules adopted pursuant to this Article for the duration of the deployment or emergency in order to facilitate vote by mail voting under this Article. The Governor or executive director, as the case may be, then promptly shall notify each election authority of the changes in procedures. Each election authority shall publicize the modifications and shall provide notice of the modifications to each person under its jurisdiction subject to this Article for whom the election authority has contact information.”