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How a special election for Jesse Jackson Jr.’s open seat could work

Updated: December 24, 2012 7:10AM



Election officials plan to ask a judge to waive the standard time frame and allow a special election to replace Jesse Jackson Jr. to occur at the same time as already-planned suburban elections.

Cook County Clerk David Orr said he and his counterparts in Chicago, and Will and Kankakee counties — the four areas included in the 2nd Congressional District — want the special election held April 9, along with a primary on Feb. 26. The suburban areas all have elections already scheduled for those dates.

By law, Gov. Pat Quinn has five days to schedule the election, which would have to be held within 115 days of Jackson’s resignation Wednesday. That would place the election no later than March 16.

“This election will be carried out in a manner that is fair to the electorate and as economical as possible for taxpayers,” Quinn said in a statement Wednesday.

“We know that Congressman Jackson is confronting health challenges, and our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family during this difficult time.”

So sometime next week, the clerks will ask a judge to accommodate the existing election dates.

“We do believe the courts will be sympathetic,” Orr said. “We know the governor certainly is to the questions of cost.”

Orr estimated it would cost the suburban counties more than $1 million to hold two separate elections for the 2nd District.

That’s what it’ll cost Chicago taxpayers, said Chicago Board of Elections spokesman Jim Allen, since Chicago has no elections scheduled in 2013.

“We’re still crunching the numbers, but it is reasonable to expect that we could have approximately $1 million in costs between the special primary and special election,” Allen said.

Plus, there already is precedent for moving a special election to coincide with a scheduled one. That’s what happened when then-Rep. Rahm Emanuel resigned from the 5th District to become President Barack Obama’s chief of staff. Candidates had about two weeks to circulate petitions to get on the ballot, instead of the usual 90 days.

But until an election date is set, no one should yet run for Jackson’s seat, Orr said.

“People can always be talking to voters, there’s nothing to stop them from that, but at this point I would not encourage petition gathering until we have a better handle on this.”

Orr said he and the other clerks have been talking since rumors surfaced of Jackson’s troubles. He said he had no advance warning of the resignation of the congressman he’s known for many years.

“All I can say is personally it’s very sad,” Orr said. “I would look to the positive, good years of service that he’s had.

“We’ll see what happens with all the other quote-allegations,” he said.



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