Illinois vote no tax sign

While the presidential election is all but decided in Illinois, voters face decisions on many competitive state and federal races in 2020.

President Donald Trump has virtually no chance to capture the state’s 20 Electoral College votes. In 2016 Democrat Hillary Clinton defeated Trump with 68.8% of the vote, compared to 38.8% for the iconoclast who edged out the former First Lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state for the national victory. Polls indicated former Vice President Joe Biden will easily win the state this year.

One key decision for Illinois voters will be whether to approve an amendment to the state Constitution known as the Fair Tax that would allow a graduated income tax. Currently, Illinois taxes all residents at a standard rate. The amendment would grant the General Assembly power to alter the taxing structure.

There are no other referenda on the ballot, something that doesn’t surprise Kevin Semlow, who tracks state politics for Illinois Farm Bureau.

“Illinois is not a referendum state, so that is not unusual,” he said.

All 118 seats in the state House of Representatives are up for grabs, though 55 are uncontested by one of the two major political parties. Of those, 45 are held by Democrats and 10 by Republicans. Nine incumbents are retiring, though some — including farmer and state Rep. Darren Bailey, who is running for the state Senate — are seeking another office.

Democrats hold 40 of the 59 Senate seats. Of those, 19 will be on the ballot in Nov. 3. Nine are uncontested, including seven Democrat-held seats. Six senators retired — three Democrats and three Republicans. They include Democrats Chuck Weaver, Pat McGuire and Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant; along with Republicans Jim Oberweis, Dale Righter and Paul Schimpf. Schimpf is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

“Most contested races — especially on the House side — are in the Chicago area,” Semlow said. “There are some hotly contested races in the collar counties.”

The political map is changing.

“We’re seeing a change in demographics,” Semlow said. “In traditionally Republican territories we’re seeing a push for Democrat support. In 2018 several elections in the House were decided with less than 1,000 votes. There’s a lot of focus up there.”

Following results of the 2020 Census, Illinois is widely expected to lose one of its 18 congressional seats, which would also mean less clout in the Electoral College. The 15th district — currently held by Republican John Shimkus — may be the target for elimination. Shimkus is retiring, and the seat is being contested by Democrat Erika Weaver and Republican Mary Miller. There is a possibility that whoever wins will serve only two years before the district is eliminated.

One highly contested race is for a seat on the Illinois Supreme Court. Republican Lloyd Karmeier is one of two justices whose seat is on the ballot. Karmeier is retiring effective Dec. 3. Republican David Overstreet and Democrat Judy Cates are vying for the seat, in southern Illinois.

Democrat Scott Neville is running for election after being appointed by the court to serve out the term of Justice Charles Freeman, who retired in 2018.

While Illinois Farm Bureau is on record opposing the Fair Tax, its non-political arm does not endorse candidates.

“The biggest thing is to make sure everyone goes out to vote,” Semlow said. “We’re running a big get-out-the-vote campaign, encouraging our members to vote.”

Nat Williams is Southern Illinois field editor, writing for Illinois Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Missouri Farmer Today.