Obama victory leaves vacant seat

By Colleen Vest

Once the numbers are in and the winners are declared, the results of the election can have an impact on state and local governments.

After President-elect Barack Obama is inaugurated in January, Illinois will have to fill the empty seat of the junior senator.

“Because he has only served for a few years, having to fill his seat shouldn’t change the state too much,” said Brian Gaines, University political science professor. “Some state legislatures prepare a list and decide how to fill an empty seat in the Senate, but Illinois leaves it completely in the hands of the governor.”

Gaines said that he didn’t see any “pork barrel spending” or other specific tangible benefits for the state because of the current economic situation, but strong leaders can help Illinois stand out.

“Illinois is in high reaches of government, since our junior senator was just elected president and also as Durbin becomes more senior in Congress,” Gaines continued.

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While the presidential election was the main focus, two local representatives were up for re-election. The re-election of U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson and state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson will not have a visible impact on Illinois, Gaines said.

“One person’s win or loss in Congress and the state legislature probably won’t make a very big difference,” said Scott Althaus, University political science professor. “The state is affected more based on who is in control of Congress.”

Althaus said that only a major change in control of the legislature would make any evident change in state governments.

“One of the big issues on this ballot was about the possibility of an Illinois Constitutional Convention because it would have required electing delegates,” he said. “The vote for an increase in sales tax to benefit the schools is an important local issue for this election.”

While the Constitutional Convention was rejected by Illinois voters on Tuesday, the Champaign County sales tax increase is still an open issue. The referendum was denied by a margin of 300 votes, and county officials still have more than 800 provisional and absentee ballots to count.

Althaus said the number of first time voters in this year’s election will affect the future of the state’s government.

“Since 1968, just over half of all eligible voters voted, but this year, a lot of first time voters and more people in general voted,” Althaus said. “This could impact the country and state in the future because they are likely to continue to vote in upcoming elections.”