What’s on the ballot next week in Illinois

By: Samuel Wonacott

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Illinois voters to decide congressional, state, and local primaries on March 19 
  2. Alabama becomes 14th state with an education savings account (ESA) program 
  3. #FridayTrivia: How many states ban or otherwise restrict private funding of election administration?

Clarification: In the March 13 Brew, we wrote that the Alaska Repeal Top-Four Ranked-Choice Voting Initiative was certified for the Nov. 5, 2024, general election ballot. We should have said the initiative qualified for the ballot. While the initiative will appear on the ballot, the exact election date is not final. The initiative will be on the general election ballot, unless the legislature adjourns on or before April 22 or an unforeseen special election occurs. In Alaska, a ballot initiative appears on the first statewide ballot 120 days after the legislature’s adjournment, which is expected around May 15. We appreciate the attentive reader who pointed out those missing details!

Illinois voters to decide congressional, state, and local primaries on March 19 

We’re halfway through March, one of the busiest election months of the year. Last week, voters in Mississippi decided congressional and judicial primaries. Next up? Illinois and Ohio will hold primaries on March 19. 

Today, let’s look at Illinois. We’ll be back on Monday with a look at Ohio.  

Here’s what you need to know.  

Congressional offices 

Voters will decide primaries for all 17 of the state’s U.S. House districts. Currently, Democrats hold 14 of the districts, while Republicans hold three. 

  • Forty-nine candidates are running for Illinois’ 17 U.S. House districts, including 24 Democrats and 25 Republicans. That’s an average of 2.59 candidates per district. In 2022, the first election after the number of congressional districts in Illinois decreased from 18 to 17, 5.59 candidates ran per district.
  • The number of total candidates who ran for the U.S. House in 2024 was the fewest since at least 2014.
  • All incumbents ran for re-election this year, meaning no seats were open for the first time since 2014. In 2022, four seats were open, and one seat was open in 2020, 2028, and 2016.
  • Five incumbents face primary challengers—four Democrats and one Republican. That was also the fewest since 2014, when three incumbents faced primary challengers. The 4th District was guaranteed to Democrats because no Republican candidates filed. The 15th and Illinois’ 16th Congressional District were guaranteed to Republicans because no Democrats filed.

Neither state’s two U.S. Senate seats are on the ballot in 2024. 

State legislature

Illinois is holding elections for both chambers of the state legislature. All 118 House districts are up for election. In the Senate, 20 of the chamber’s 59 districts are up for election.

Illinois has a Democratic trifecta

Democrats have a 78-40 majority in the House and a 40-19 majority in the Senate. Illinois is one of 29 states where one party has a veto-proof majority in both legislative chambers. 

  • Between both chambers, 232 major party candidates—133 Democrats and 99 Republicans—are running.
  • Twenty-nine primaries are contested—a 43% decrease from 2022 and a decade low (tied with 2014). 
  • Twenty incumbents face primary challenges, representing 15% of all incumbents running for re-election. Of the 20 incumbents in contested primaries, 15 are Democrats and five are Republicans.
  • Incumbents declined to run in six seats. This guarantees that newcomers will represent at least 4% of the districts up for election.

Judicial and local primaries 

  • Judicial: 
  • Municipal:
    • Ballotpedia is covering primaries for State’s Attorney, county commissioners, board of review commissioners, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, clerk of circuit court, circuit court judges, and subcircuit court judges. Click here to learn more. 
  • School board
    • Ballotpedia is covering elections for 10 seats on the Chicago Public Schools school board. This is the first year the district is up for election. Half the board will be elected in 2024 and the remaining half in 2026. Previously, the mayor appointed all board members. Click here to read more about the Chicago Public Schools’ transition from an appointed board to an elected one.  

Click below to read more about Illinois’ upcoming elections. 

Keep reading 

Alabama becomes 14th state with an education savings account (ESA) program 

Hall Pass, Ballotpedia’s weekly education newsletter, is your one-stop shop for helping you stay current on school board elections, education legislation, and the debates influencing state and local K-12 policies. In this week’s edition, we covered, among other things, debates over sex education curriculum in Texas and Alabama’s new education savings account (ESA) program. 

Here’s a snippet from our story on Alabama. 

On March 7, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) signed House Bill 129 into law, making the state the 14th with an ESA program.

ESAs allow families to receive a deposit of public funds into government-authorized accounts for use on approved educational expenses. States set different rules for what counts as an approved educational expense. In general, families can use ESA money for private school tuition, tutoring, curriculum, and school supplies.

Alabama’s Creating Hope & Opportunity for Our Students’ Education (CHOOSE) Act will provide families with up to $7,000 per child for use at a participating private school beginning in the 2025-2026 school year. Homeschooling families can receive up to $2,000 per child—with a cap of $4,000 for families with more than two homeschooling children—for educational expenses. Not all states with ESA programs include homeschoolers.

The House voted 69-34 to pass the CHOOSE Act on Feb. 27, with six Republicans joining Democrats in opposition. Republicans have a 75-28 majority in the House (with two vacancies). The Senate voted 23-9 to pass the bill. Republicans have a 27-8 majority in the Senate. Alabama has a Republican trifecta

In her 2024 state of the state address, Ivey said passing an ESA program was her top legislative agenda item. Ivey said, “We want every Alabama student – whether they are at a public school, private school, magnet, charter or homeschool – the opportunity to receive a high quality education.”

Democratic lawmakers opposed the bill, saying it would drain resources from public schools. State Sen. Bobby Singleton (D) said, “This is the new segregation. We’re just paying for it this time. Paying for it on the backs of poor children.”

ESAs are one of several programs allowing eligible students to use taxpayer money for educational expenses outside the public school system. Other programs include vouchers and tax-credit scholarships. Over the last few years, ESAs have become the most popular of these programs.

In 2023, five states enacted new ESA programs and two expanded existing ones—the most in any year. Except for North Carolina, which has a Democratic governor and a Republican-controlled legislature, all the states that created or expanded an ESA program last year had Republican trifectas. 

Click the link below to learn more about ESA programs, vouchers, and tax-credit scholarships here.

Keep reading 

#FridayTrivia: How many states ban or otherwise restrict private funding of election administration?

In the Thursday Brew, we highlighted the latest episode of On the Ballot, our weekly podcast. In this week’s episode, staff writer Joe Greaney provides an update about the laws governing the private funding of elections

The private funding of elections refers to the practice of nonprofits, private organizations, or individuals providing funding or other resources to election administrators to conduct or administer elections.

Greaney looks at the origins of the debate, arguments for and against banning private funds, the partisan leaning of states with bans in place, and upcoming legislation.

How many states ban or otherwise restrict private funding of election administration?

  1. 27
  2. 9
  3. 24
  4. 19