By Jamey Dunn
Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill into law today that moves the state primary election back to the third Tuesday in March.
The General Assembly moved the date up to the first Tuesday in February before the 2008 primary, when then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama was running for president.
After low voter turnout in this year’s primary, a push began to move the election back to its original date. Quinn and Sen. Deanna Demuzio, a Carlinville Democrat and sponsor of the bill, said that county clerks and election official asked lawmakers to move the election back.
“I think it is back to the future. It’s much better to have a primary on the third Tuesday in March, and that’s what it’ll be in 2012, a presidential year,” Quinn said.
Supporters said voters will have more time to research candidates. Democrats may be hoping that giving constituents more time to vet candidates might prevent any repeats of a scandal such as the one that surrounded little-known pawnbroker Scott Lee Cohen’s win in the lieutenant governor primary race. Cohen stepped aside after allegations of violence surfaced from his past. The Democrats plan to pick his replacement later this month.
The bill had bipartisan support. “It is important that we not have that election so close after the holidays,” Sen. Dale Risinger, a Peoria Republican said.
Sen. Dale Righter, a Mattoon Republican, said the date should never have been moved in the first place. Righter said the new law would correct “a mistake I think that was made three years ago and [get] us back on track.”