Unemployment mess leads lawmaker to push for Pritzker’s recall

Unemployment mess leads lawmaker to push for Pritzker’s recall

Citing the lack of action on the state unemployment claims system overwhelmed during the COVID-19 pandemic, a state lawmaker begins the process to remove Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker from office.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s extended failure to fix the state unemployment claims system is reason enough to remove him from office, according to state Rep. Allen Skillicorn, R-Crystal Lake. Skillicorn on May 22 began the process to trigger a recall election of Pritzker.

“I have constituents who tell me they have dialed in hundreds of times a day for weeks without getting through,” Skillicorn stated in a press release.

He said he hopes the recall effort puts pressure on Pritzker to improve handling of the unemployment claims backlog created by the pandemic shutting down the state economy. He also wants the governor to better address the concerns of those whose information was compromised in a data breach.

The state spent $22 million on a no-bid contract for the unemployment claims system and a new call center. The system went live May 11, allowing gig workers and independent contractors to finally apply for benefits. But many were met with major technical issues and the new system publicly exposed Social Security numbers and other private information of nearly 32,500 out-of-work Illinoisans.

Skillicorn’s press release also stated that between March 2 through April 28, daily calls to the unemployment assistance hotline rose “from an average of 6,500 for the first 10 days to almost 370,000 with the number of agents available to answer those calls increasing from a low of 88 to a high of 122.” With 1.1 million Illinoisans idled by the pandemic since mid-March, many are still unable to receive critical benefits or adequate assistance in navigating the system.

The process to recall a governor in Illinois is a multi-step process. First, an affidavit must be signed by at least 20 state House Representatives and 10 state Senators – with no more than half in each chamber belonging to a single political party. Then, the affidavit would be filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections. Secondly, Illinoisans would need to circulate the petition publicly. To trigger a recall election, the petition requires signatures of a minimum of 15% of the votes cast for Pritzker in the preceding general election within at least 25 counties. That would equal nearly 637,000 signatures of registered voters.

Following the federal corruption conviction of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the Illinois Constitution was amended to allow a ballot referendum to recall a governor midterm. If this petition were to pass those hurdles and trigger a recall election in Illinois, it would be the first of its kind.

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