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Local Editorials

SVM EDITORIAL: Long election cycle drags Illinois down

Illinois’ election cycle is too long. To shrink it, the primary should be moved closer to the general election. That way, elected leaders could focus more time on solving the state’s problems and less time on the next campaign.

How our elected leaders choose to spend their time says a lot about their priorities.

In Illinois, our leaders appear to be much more interested in politics and elections than in governing and problem-solving.

We base that opinion on the long, drawn-out election cycle that past elected officials created and today’s elected officials refuse to shorten.

It’s an election cycle that practically guarantees politics and governance will never be separated for very long in our troubled state.

Here’s what we’re talking about.

After last November’s election, successful candidates for the Legislature took office in early January. Before long, Democratic candidates began announcing their bids for governor in the March 2018 primary; for example, Chris Kennedy announced in February and JB Pritzker in April.

Then, legislative incumbents began announcing their intentions for 2018. For example, in June, state Sen. Tim Bivins, R-Dixon, announced he would not run again. Other political figures across the state also told of their plans as the weeks passed.

Later came the jockeying for position by current officeholders and political hopefuls regarding who will run to fill the vacancies. We now know, for example, that state Rep. Brian Stewart, R-Freeport, plans to run for Bivins’ job. More maneuvering and announcements certainly lie ahead.

Much of this activity occurred as elected officials struggled to approve a budget after a 2-year stalemate, and then labored to hammer out a new school funding system – work that stretched into late August.

So here we are, 8 months into this 2-year cycle, and we’re already thinking about next year’s election and who’s going to take office 16 months from now.

That’s no way to run a state government.

Last week – Sept. 5 – launched the beginning of the 2018 cycle. It’s the first day candidates could legally circulate nominating petitions for the March 2018 primary.

Then, nominating petitions will be filed between Nov. 27 and Dec. 4, then it’s on to the March 20 primary, and then, nearly 8 months later, to the Nov. 6, 2018, general election, and then will come the transition and the January 2019 oaths of office.

And then the process begins again.

We believe this overly long election cycle works against the best interests of the public. All they ask is that state government runs efficiently, serves them fairly, and spends their tax dollars wisely. Continual focus on the next election works against those reasonable expectations.

We’ve suggested it before, and we’ll suggest it again. The primary should be moved from March of even-numbered years to much later (August or September?) to lop time off Illinois’ never-ending campaign season.

And don’t tell us that doesn’t leave enough time for campaigning. British politicians have proved that effective campaigns can be conducted in as little as 6 weeks.

If Illinois’ elected leaders are really interested in solving the state’s many thorny problems, they will make it their No. 1 priority to serve the public, not run for office.

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