Primary Politics: Should Illinois Come First in 2024?


On the heels of the Iowa caucuses debacle, Illinois leaders are trying to rally support for the state to hold the first presidential primary in 2024.

“If you’re looking for a state whose people represent the diversity of America, look no further than Illinois,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker tweeted last week. “It’s time for the most representative state in the country to be the first in the nation.”

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“I look forward to working with other elected officials and the party to change the calendar so that Illinois’ primary comes first in the nominating process in the 2024 presidential election,” Pritzker said in a statement the following day.

But at a press conference Monday, Illinois’ senior senator, Dick Durbin, called the pursuit a longshot.

“Iowa and New Hampshire are determined to have a primary in two years in advance if necessary to always be first. So, I like the notion of Illinois being part of the decision process early on but we’ll never, never ever, be the first in line,” he said.

Pritzker believes the diversity of the state – both in the demographics of its population and where along the urban-rural spectrum that population resides – would best serve the democratic primary.

Chicago demographer Rob Paral of Rob Paral & Associates agrees that demographically, Illinois looks more like America than Iowa does. It’s “much more representative of the U.S.,” Paral said. 

That holds true, Paral says, despite an exodus of people from black and brown communities in Chicago.

“Illinois is demographically more dynamic. The state is losing African Americans but there is also influx of Latinos,” he said.

David Greising, president and CEO of the Better Government Association, says Illinois’ long, sordid history with corrupt politicians is just one of the obstacles to the state holding the first presidential primary.

“The elephant in the room is the rampant corruption,” said Greising. “The corruption issue would create problems for the National Democratic Party. So that’s a non-starter.”

Greising also said the DNC would take issue with the myriad voter registration problems at the secretary of state’s office. Last month, about 4,700 16-year-olds began to register to vote before those applications were stopped. Meanwhile, 14 noncitizens voted while another 545 non-citizens registeredWhite has apologized for the mistakes. 

On top of the errors made by the secretary of state’s office, Illinois State Board of Elections mistakenly canceled the voter registrations of 774 former inmates

Greising said another issue could be that Russian intelligence agents breached the state election board’s computer network during the 2016 election. That breach was documented in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.

After that revelation, Chicago got voters new voting machines that have added security for the primary election on March 17.  Early voting starts March 2.

Greising, Paral and Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton join “Chicago Tonight” in discussion.

Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed the mistaken cancelation of inmate voter registrations to the secretary of state’s office. The story has been updated.


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