Illinois Ballot Access Laws Pit Third Parties Against Each Other
Illinois has some seriously biased ballot access laws against third parties, i.e. any political party other than Democrats or Republicans. In 2012, a third party candidate for President needed 25,000 signatures to get on the ballot, while the D’s and R’s needed nominal signatures for their party primaries, and it is assumed that home-state favorite Barack Obama (D) will win the state. ,
The petitioning period for third parties and independents in Illinois ended last week, and while the Green Party and the Libertarian Party submitted over 25 thousand signatures, four other candidates submitted less than 20 signatures, three of them submitted less than 5 signatures, and based on Illinois state law, any citizen can challenge petitions.
The National Green Party didn’t challenge any petitions, nor did the Illinois Green Party, but one Rob Sherman, a three time Green Party candidate for office, Chair of the Cook County Greens, and outspoken advocate for separation of church and state, did. He filed a challenge to the nomination papers of:
- Stewart Alexander (Socialists)- 1 signature
- Michael Hawkins (Together Enhancing America) – 1 signature (but he did submit 5 blank pages)
- Rocky Anderson (Independent) – 2 signatures
- Virgil Goode (Constitution) – approx 200 to 300 signatures (35 pages, 10 lines/page)
The Illinois Green Party spent around $8,0000 and put in countless hours to get the Green Party on the ballot in Illinois. Other than Virgil Goode, the other three candidates put in less than 60 minutes and no money to get on the Illinois ballot. This double standard is frustrating – on the one hand, the Green Party suffered from harsh challenges by Democrats to get on the ballot in 2006, but on the other hand, taking a chance with just two signatures is a colossal risk for a national presidential campaign that hopes to unite the progressive movements with the Occupy protests for real political change in America.
National Greens have come out against the challenge to the petitions of the Socialist, Justice Party and Independent campaigns. The most notable argument that seems to summarize the typical Green Party opposition to the challenges comes from third party and green party advocate Howie Hawkins here (in a statement posted at Ballot Access News)
I know how hard it is to get on the ballot. I’ve petitioned successfully 17 of 19 attempts for myself and petitioned countless times for other Green candidates, with mixed success because of major party challenges or state official malfeasance. I have been challenged on my own petitions by the Democrats almost every time, most of them utterly frivolous challenges that served only to force me to devote limited time and resources to defend my petition instead of campaign for the office.
The strongest case in favor of the challenges comes from Rob Sherman himself, in a comment left at Independent Political Report:
Unless you have been out there, collecting nominating petition signatures (as I did when I ran for State Rep in 2006 and 2008 and for Village Clerk in 2010), you have no idea how incredibly taxing it is on the legs and feet, and how challenging it is to be out there in all kinds of weather, such as day after day of 90+ degree heat this year, and frigid conditions with frequent blowing snow when I was out there in previous years. After all of that intense physical suffering by so many, you want me to do what?
Among ballot access advocates and Green Party organizers, this has become a problematic situation. While third parties share in common a complex set of exclusive ballot access laws, there has been a general sense of solidarity on the ballot access front. For an apparently significant Green Party leader to take the lead position to knock possibly four other third party candidates off the ballot in Illinois is significant, and possibly damaging for the Green Party. On the other hand, the greens and Libertarians clearly put together the volunteers and resources to qualify for the ballot in Illinois, far in excess of the number of signatures that the four challenged parties submitted.
So what do you think? Should the Greens have challenged those petitions or not?