Now that Jesse Jackson Jr. has resigned his seat in Congress, Gov. Pat Quinn must set the date for an election to fill the seat. Cook County Clerk David Orr has a plan — and hopes the courts will go along. It would require a court order condensing the schedule so that the primary and general elections to replace Jackson would fit the existing suburban Cook County, Will and Kankakee County election schedules. All have primary elections Feb. 26 and general elections April 9. However, as it stands, there is a March 15 deadline to hold a special election. Orr said sticking to the existing deadline would mean staging extra elections — and incurring extra costs.
“Instead of having two elections in February and April, we’d have four elections — in January, February, March and April,” he said. “That’s the worst scenario and that could be a costly proposition, minimum $700,000-$800,000 in suburban Cook County alone. That’s not costing other jurisdictions.”
Add those in, and the special elections’ costs could easily top $1 million, he said. If done the same days, he said, the costs would be negligible, except in the city of Chicago, which has no elections scheduled next year.
There’s precedent for changing the deadlines for a special election — the 2009 election in the 5th district to replace Rahm Emanuel, when he resigned his congressional seat to become President Obama’s chief of staff. Courts allowed that special election to be scheduled to coincide with other elections already set for that year.
Under the scenario Orr envisions, the period for circulating nominating petitions could be condensed to as little as two weeks, as was done in 2009. But he warned potential candidates not to seek any signatures until a primary date is set.