WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Democrats and Republicans Blocking Ballot Access in Illinois

Jul 30, 2014

Progressives and conservatives alike should be outraged at the bipartisan stonewalling and slights that last week culminated in the Illinois Green Party having to file a federal lawsuit about ballot access.

The Greens – whose 29,000 Illinois voter signatures on a petition to be on the November ballot are being challenged – are fighting back. They’re disputing the constitutionality of the whole process of ballot-access petitions being challenged; plus Illinois’ unique law requiring newly qualified political parties to run a full slate in the unit of government where a candidate seeks office (county, state, etc. ), unlike Republicans or Democrats; plus the mandate of petitions being notarized, a burdensome task that discourages or makes difficult the grassroots effort.

Peorian Sheldon Schafer, the Greens’ candidate for Secretary of State who personally collected more than 10 percent of the party’s signatures –said, “Rather than fight the Democratic Machine and the State Board of Elections on their own terms, we’ve decided to fight back by attacking the fundamental problem – the election code itself."

Alluding to parties such as the Libertarians also affected, Schafer continued, “Our fight isn’t just for our party or even our party’s values. We’re building multi-party democracy in the United States and right here in Illinois.”

The suit comes on the heels of last month’s decision by Cook County Judge Mary Mikva ruling against ballot questions about term limits for elected officials and about a better way to re-district when populations change.

The Yes for Independent Maps re-districting folks essentially surrendered, planning for another try in a future election; the term-limit movement may appeal Mikva’s ruling, a pricey proposition, but it’s backed by millionaire Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner.

“We have been burdened with these unfair requirements for years,” said the Green Party’s Rita Maniotis of Berwyn, who herself collected more than 4,000 signatures, “and are forced to seek relief in the courts from rules meant to exclude third parties.”

Green Party lawyer Chris Kruger of Evanston said, “Our argument is solid and based on substantial federal case law. We shouldn’t have to go to federal court to fight for basic democratic rights, but this is Illinois.”

Bill Knight

Indeed, while everyday Illinoisans gathered, signed and presented the petitions of thousands of their neighbors, the legislature and/or Gov. Quinn shamelessly added a few non-binding questions to the ballot. The “advisory” questions are about voter suppression, victims’ rights, a minimum wage increase, access to birth control as part of health insurance and a 3-percent tax on millionaires earmarked for schools.

Ordinary people must present 250,000 signatures and stand up to time-consuming challenges through the State Board of Elections to have citizen initiatives appear on ballots. However, the legislature needs just to pass a resolution in each house of the General Assembly and get the Governor’s signature to ask voters whether they’re against lynch law or support Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows, etc.

House Speaker Mike Madigan and the majority Democrats – as well as GOP power brokers who envision a return to power (despite Rauner’s involvement in the term-limit drive) – oppose letting voters decide on re-districting and term limits. As far as the meaningless advisory questions, Democrats seem to seek to entice the Democratic base to turn out AND to attempt to appease disgruntled supporters through virtually meaningless gestures.

All of it shows profound disrespect for voters and devotion to politicians’ power, now and in the future.

Green gubernatorial candidate Scott Summers – whose running mate is Lieutenant Governor candidate Bobby Pritchett Jr. of Roseville – said, “Voters want to see more than just one or two candidates on their ballots. My campaign and this lawsuit challenge the election laws that choke off choice.”

Instead of elected officials worrying more about their power, prestige and position – instead of going through the “advisory” motions of action – they should do something and worry about their constituents.

Unless they are – and concern about genuine voter involvement is rising to the panic level, requiring illusory gimmicks like non-binding queries.  

Contact Bill at Bill.Knight@hotmail.com; his twice-weekly columns are archived at billknightcolumn.blogspot.com   

The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Tri States Public Radio or Western Illinois University.