Lake County has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the provision in Public Act 98-0115 recently signed by the governor that removes the authority of the county clerk to administer elections and establishes an elections commission without a voter referendum - in Lake County only.
The newly enacted law requires the chief judge to appoint the commission within 30 days. The County is seeking a preliminary injunction from the court to prevent the formation of the commission, and to stop the commission from implementing and administering elections in Lake County.
The Illinois Constitution (Article IV, Section 13) prohibits the general assembly from passing "special legislation" when general laws can be made applicable. In this case, certain provisions of Public Act 98-0115 single out Lake County by applying only to "[a]ny county with a population of more than 700,000 as of the 2010 federal decennial census...that borders another state and borders no more than two other Illinois counties..." Lake County is and will always be the only county in the state that has more than 700,000 as of the 2010 census and that also borders another state and no more than two other Illinois counties.
Currently, other counties can establish an elections commission by voter referendum or by ordinance of the elected county board. This challenged legislation specifically singles out Lake County and eliminates voters' right to choose who administers elections.
When this legislation was first introduced, the Lake County Board overwhelmingly approved a resolution officially opposing the legislation. The board reacted swiftly, attempting to work with local legislators to prevent it from moving forward. Only one of Lake County's five state senators and four of nine state representatives supported it. The board then urged the governor to veto the language and preserve voters' rights by putting a referendum in place. Ultimately, the governor signed the bill.
The defendants in the lawsuit include: Chief Judge Fred Foreman, who under the legislation is charged with appointing the elections commission, and the Illinois State Board of Elections, which under Illinois law is the state agency that has general oversight and administration of elections.