EDWARDSVILLE – Oral arguments will be heard on Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Haine’s challenge of a new law creating judicial subcircuits in local courts, including Madison County.
The hearing is set for June 22 at the 4th District Appellate Court via Zoom.
This comes as early voting has already started in the June 28 primary.
Haine is arguing the law is unconstitutional and goes against “100 years” of Madison County history and injects partisan politics into the judicial races.
Voters have three local judicial races in the primary.
“I don’t know many people who think gerrymandering our local judicial elections is a good way to go,” Haine said. “I am glad the County Board and the other co-plaintiffs chose to stand up and challenge this unconstitutional law in court and now on appeal. Fairness in our judiciary and the equal right for voters to have a voice in judicial elections are fundamental values we all need to protect.”
The suit stems from the passage and signing of a law modifying judicial subcircuits in Cook County, and creating subcircuits in some downstate counties, including Madison County.
One of the concerns was that while bill does not take effect in the rest of the state until the 2024 election cycle, in Madison County it will impact the 2022 election cycle, which is now under way.
It also sets up a system where the first three judges elected must come from one subcircuit, which is heavily democratic; then then next three from a second subcircuit, which is split. The third subcircuit, more heavily Republican will only have two judges and voters will be unable to vote for a judicial race for approximately 10 years, according to county officials.
The act was criticized as being highly partisan and hastily done, without any chance for real debate.
The original bill, introduced in the Illinois House in February 2021 by Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville, and originally sponsored in the senate by Sen. Rachelle Crowe, D-Glen Carbon. Both are up for reelection and are on the primary ballot, however, Crowe was nominated for and has accepted the position of US Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, and is withdrawing. The party will name a new candidate after the primary.
On Jan. 5 the bill was amended by Senate President Dan Harmon, D-Oak Park, completely throwing out the old language and inserting the new proposal. It was voted on by both houses on a party-line vote and signed by Gov. JB Pritzker.
The proposal was introduced on the first day of the 2022 session and appeared to take Republican lawmakers by surprise. They argued that there had been little focus on creating additional subcircuits outside of Cook County during public hearings of the House and Senate Redistricting Committees in recent months.
Democrats, however, said the idea had long been on the table since the General Assembly passed a law mandating the redrawing of existing subcircuits following the 2020 census.
In February a circuit court judge in Sangamon County initially granted a temporary restraining order halting implementation of the law, but later ruled against the county and other plaintiffs.