Thursday, May 17, 2007

Moving the Calendars

HB426, which changes the date of Illinois' primary election, has received a bunch of press coverage. Most of this has focused on how the new primary date may help the presidential aspirations of US Sen. Barack Obama.

But the measure does far more than that, as this story in the Kane County Chronicle suggests. Petitioning for all offices will start sooner than normal, for instance.

The bill also affects disclosure reports for state PACs (since Obama is a federal candidate and office holder, he doesn't file state disclosure reports). The main disclosure reports, the semi-annuals, will be due on July 20 and January 20 rather than on the last days of the month. Because the bill has an immediate effective date, reports covering the first half of this year will be due on Friday, July 20 -- eleven days earlier than normal (about two months from today).

The measure also eliminates pre-election reports for the primary election. Under current law, candidates must file pres covering the period beginning the day after the last semi until 30 days before the election, listing all donations over $150 and aggregating smaller donations. During the last 30 days, they have to file A1s, listing donations over $500, within two days. Because the primary for state and federal elections is so close to the end of the semi, the new measure starts the A1 period on January 1, the day after the semi, and does away with the pre (again, for state and federal primaries, not the odd-year municipals). As a result, the public won't know aggregate totals for smaller donations, or about donors of donations between $150 and $500 more than one month before the primary, which would have been reported (though that's a small window). But we will know about larger donors sooner than under the current law.

The State Board of Elections plans an education effort to let PACs know about these changes to the disclosure calendar, assuming HB426 is signed into law in a timely manner (if the signing is late, the Board may not have much time to educate PACs). These changes will take some getting used to, but we might as well start now -- they're permanent, and will be in place long after the Obama 2008 campaign is over.

No comments: