Illinois lawmakers pass Election Day holiday for government workers only

Illinois lawmakers pass Election Day holiday for government workers only

Election Day 2020 would be a paid holiday for all government workers – at an unknown cost to already ailing local governments.

Lawmakers in the Illinois General Assembly voted to pass a sweeping vote-by-mail expansion, sending the bill to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s desk May 22.

Tucked away in that bill is a provision to make Election Day 2020 a holiday for all state and local government workers, including public school teachers – but nobody else.

Illinois House lawmakers voted in favor 73-42 and the state Senate voted 37-19.

Senate Bill 1863 significantly expands the state’s vote-by-mail program in time for the upcoming general election. If signed into law, election authorities would mail or email vote-by-mail application to all recent voters. Voters would need to submit their application by Oct. 1 and then receive their mail-in ballot. The bill allows the use of drop boxes distributed and monitored by the counties for submitting ballots as an alternative to the postal service.

The bill would also make Nov. 3, 2020, a legal holiday, applying to all public schools, and state and local government offices across the state. State workers represented by AFSCME already have a full paid holiday come Election Day, meaning additional costs to taxpayers will largely hit at the local government level.

A school holiday on Election Day calls into question the intent of expanding access to the ballot box, as parents – especially from low-income families – will need to stay home to care for their children, rather than go to the polls.

The state has not estimated the cost this provision would have on municipalities, continuing a long tradition of Illinois lawmakers avoiding price tags on new unfunded mandates. What is known is even the calculation of cost burden would be different for each local government. The cost for each municipality would vary based on holiday and overtime pay arrangements, which depend on each respective collective bargaining agreement.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s top priority in November is a constitutional amendment eliminating Illinois’ flat income tax protection. Government worker unions are among Pritzker’s largest supporters – meaning employees in local governments could be paid to get out the vote for the governor’s interests.

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