Lawlor to testify in Springfield about election commission
As Lake County officials await a judicial ruling that could decide who runs local elections in 2014 and beyond, County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor on Tuesday will tell state lawmakers why he opposes the creation of a special commission for that task.
Lawlor is set to testify at 10 a.m. before the House Executive Committee in Springfield. The panel is reviewing a bill that would remove a controversial section from a recently adopted election law that sought to create an election commission in Lake County -- and nowhere else.
The Lake County Clerk's office now oversees elections, voter registration and related programs. County Clerk Willard Helander and various county and state officials from both political parties decried the proposal this summer but couldn't stop its passage.
Critics say the law illegally singles out Lake County and takes away voters' rights to choose whom they want to run their elections. Although the legislation doesn't mention Lake County by name, it describes affected counties by population and geography in such a way that it can only apply to Lake.
Lawlor, a Vernon Hills Republican, sued the state board of elections and Lake County Chief Judge Fred Foreman after Gov. Pat Quinn signed the bill into law.
Kane County Judge David Akemann -- hearing the case because Foreman is a defendant -- issued a temporary restraining order in August to prevent the commission from forming. Akemann could end the matter with a permanent injunction Friday if he decides the provision is unconstitutional.
Lawlor said he's cautiously optimistic Akemann will rule in his favor.
"I feel like we're in a strong position, and hopefully we will have some good news on Friday," Lawlor told the Daily Herald.
While that's happening in court, the House Executive Committee is considering new legislation that would remove the commission-related section from the law. The bipartisan proposal is being sponsored by Republican state Rep. David McSweeney of Barrington Hills. He's working with Democratic state Rep. Scott Drury of Highwood.
Lawlor welcomed the two-pronged attack.
"We're supportive of any action, whether it's through the court or the legislature, that's going to remove this provision," Lawlor said. "I think this is a belt-and-suspenders approach to doing what is right for Lake County. It's an extra safeguard to make sure Lake County is protected."
One member of Lake County's House delegation, Mundelein Republican Ed Sullivan Jr., sits on the committee.
Sullivan voted against the original legislation. Not only does the section improperly target one county, but no lawmaker stepped up to explain why it was added to the broader election package, Sullivan said.
"We asked who put it in there," Sullivan said. "Nobody has asked for this."