A Republican State Representative asks about SB35

By DOUG IBENDAHL • April 25, 2011

 

Last week one of the Republican State Representatives asked me for additional information regarding SB35 – and specifically the phony bylaw change the Illinois GOP’s State Central Committee adopted last month in an attempt to distract from meaningful reform. I thought I would share my response to that State Representative as I’m sure other good Republicans also have questions in light of all the misinformation being churned out by desperate SB35 opponents. I thank that Republican State Representative for his inquiry and serious due diligence regarding this bill, and I welcome any other questions from other lawmakers or regular voters about this reform.

 

Dear Representative,

 

I’m sure you must be as amazed as I am regarding the lengths a few selfish players will go to protect a corrupted system that’s been a disaster for Republicans and for our Party. It’s sad that a few are so obsessed with trying to make sure Republican voters have inferior rights compared to every Illinois Democrat.

 

Here is the additional information you requested regarding the State GOP and SB35.

 

The IL GOP’s State Central Committee (the “SCC”) held its last quarterly meeting on March 9th in Springfield.

 

Here is the bylaw amendment the SCC passed in closed executive session:

 

The weighted vote for vacant precincts, and precincts not represented at the county convention, shall be allocated to each candidate based on the proportion of weighted votes they received from the elected precinct committeemen. 

 

Incredibly, while some are shamelessly claiming they “took care of” the so-called “vacant precinct problem” – in reality the SCC locked in the destructive practice in their bylaws on March 9th.

 

Read the new bylaw language again if necessary – but note that it clearly directs County Chairmen to vote vacant precincts. In fact it now says County Chairmen have no choice. The bylaws now say that County Chairmen shall cast the votes for vacant precincts.

 

I wrote a story about that meeting, based on my interviews with 2 tea party friends who attended (I wasn’t there myself) – IL GOP officials make desperate attempt to keep their titles.

 

Even more shameless, the voting of vacant precincts by Republican County Chairmen is already prohibited under Illinois law – even under the bad system our party currently follows. Any reasonable reading of the following provision of the Illinois Election Code makes it clear that only elected committeemen should be voting for SCC members at the county conventions: In other words, any attempted bylaw change is irrelevant. As any first year law student knows, when a statute is clearly on point regarding an issue – no internal rule or policy can override. Statute always trumps an internal rule or bylaw.

 

10 ILCS 5/7‑8(a).  At the county convention held by such political party . . . Each elected ward, township or precinct committeeman shall cast as his vote one vote for each ballot voted in his ward, township, part of a township or precinct in the last preceding primary election of his political party. [Emphasis is mine.]

  

And frankly even if the above referenced statute didn’t exist – simple common sense and decency would demand that no one official (a County Chairman) be allowed to swamp the weighted vote of an individual elected committeeman. But our SCC just endorsed the impermissible practice.

 

This latest dishonesty and nonsense is just one more argument for passage of SB35. We’ve got a State GOP now that won’t level with Republican voters about even the simplest things.

 

With SB35 and the return of direct elections, most of the silly games and attempts to rig the system all go away. Proper incentives replace the horribly destructive ones inherent in our current system for picking the SCC.

 

Perhaps most shameful of all, under the statutory alternative our party currently follows (the bad law Democrat and Republican lawmakers forced on us over two decades ago without notice) – the game’s already incredibly rigged in favor of the SCC incumbents and a failed status quo. This whole scam about voting vacant precincts was invented years ago when some incumbents feared the system still wasn’t rigged ENOUGH. They looked for extra help. And that’s typically done by working in cahoots with certain County Chairman pals. In some cases the County Chairman and the SCC member have been one and the same.

 

The point is, we’ve got a bad system now – but our party can’t even follow the statute governing that bad system. They’ve had to go further – and they are doing it in violation of Illinois law.

 

SB35 simply reverses that bad law that shouldn’t have been forced on Republicans in the first place – and which the SCC won’t even comply with when they decide it still doesn’t satisfy their purpose.

 

I would also note that the issue of “vacant precincts” is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what’s wrong with our current system. The overriding problem could be summarized as lack of accountability. An SCC that decides on its own not to follow a law simply because they feel it’s not already rigged enough in their favor – is just one example. An SCC that allows its Chairman to endorse in a primary without saying a peep  – as Pat Brady was allowed to do for Mark Kirk last year – is just one other example.

 

Direct elections means that the SCC members will know they will have to face Republican voters in a real election on a date certain. Just that knowledge will make even our current group of 19 marginally better SCC members overnight.

 

Don’t hesitate to call me if you have any questions or would like to discuss more. But let’s get it done. I urge you to sign-on as a co-sponsor of SB35 this week.

 

Doug Ibendahl

312.648.0061

dibendahl@mail.com

 

 

Doug Ibendahl is a Chicago Attorney and a former General Counsel of the Illinois Republican Party.

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