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Move Over Iowa And New Hampshire — Gov Says Illinois Should Hold First Primary

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks with reporters at an elementary school in Springfield.
Brian Mackey
NPR Illinois
Gov. J.B. Pritzker says the diversity of Illinois' population means the state has a lot to offer the presidential primary process.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker wants to elbow Iowa and New Hampshire out of the way in future presidential elections — so Illinois can seize the starring role in the primaries.

Pritzker went public with the idea of Illinois going first on Monday evening — before America learned the full extent of the train wreck in the Iowa caucuses.

The governor pointed to an NPR analysis from 2016, which found Illinois is the most representative state in terms of racial makeup, and near the median in measures of college education, age, income, and religiosity.

“If you can win in a state like Illinois — with so many different regions, so many different types of people from all over this state — if you can win in a state like this, then you’re worthy of being the nominee of your party,” Pritzker told reporters Wednesday.

He also said primaries are a more democratic system than the Iowa caucuses.

The Illinois primaries allow weeks of early voting, voting by mail, and let people vote on election day from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. The caucuses, by contrast, require showing up in person for several hours on one specific weeknight, potentially excluding people who might have to work or care for family members.

Asked about recent glitches in voter registration — like non-citizens being registered and former prisoners being unregistered — Pritzker says those problems are being addressed.

The Illinois Republican Party has also endorsed the idea of going first.

Brian Mackey formerly reported on state government and politics for NPR Illinois and a dozen other public radio stations across the state. Before that, he was A&E editor at The State Journal-Register and Statehouse bureau chief for the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
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