Speaker Madigan's first substantive proposal in the 95th General Assembly was to move the 2008 presidential primary to its earliest possible date (according to DNC rules): February 5, 2008. The move is motivated by a desire to boost the prospects of the only presidential candidate from Illinois: Senator Barack Obama. (Potential pre-campaign website at www.Obama4America.com)
I think it's a great move. The rules that govern how to pick a president are stacked up to diminish the voice of Illinois citizens. First our primary (currently scheduled for mid-March) comes too late for us to influence the nominee; then the winner-take-all rule that most states use for the Electoral College means that all the extra votes in November for Obama (assuming he's the nominee) go to waste and do not help to elect him.
Moving our presidential primary to February will also help the moderate Illinois Republicans mitigate the more radical southern wing of their party by giving Illinoisians more clout in the Republican presidential nomination, which will likely help nominate a better Republican. That's also a good thing for the country.
Representative John Fritchey in his blog (now named Open House) notes that having two primaries (one presidential in February, another in March or perhaps later for everybody else) might serve to depress turnout for the non-presidential primary. Fair enough, but I still think a relevant presidential primary is a good move. And besides, we should just follow Australia's lead and require all citizens to vote. (No one would have to cast a vote for any particular race, but just like jury duty, it should be a price of citizenship to show up, take a ballot, and turn it back in, with or without any votes cast).
I'm glad that Speaker Madigan took the initiative with a bold move to improve our election system. I hope it inspires similar bold thinking among the rest of the General Assembly.