Summers, Illinois Greens Sue State Over Election Rules

scott-summersScott Summers, Green Party candidate for Governor, and the slate of Green Party statewide candidates, have filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to halt the state’s “binder check” process and have key provisions of the Illinois Election Code ruled unconstitutional.

On June 23, the Green Party filed 29,707 signatures to place Summers, U.S. Senate candidate Omar Lopez, and five other statewide candidates on the November ballot. A week later, the petition was challenged by Karen Yarbrough, Cook County Recorder of Deeds and long-time ally of Governor Pat Quinn.

“Voters want to see more than just one or two candidates on their ballots,” Summers says. “My campaign and this lawsuit challenge the election laws that choke off choice.”

The lawsuit makes three distinct allegations:

* The “binder check” process which is used to review petitions is unconstitutional, because it is biased against petitioning candidates, is subject to on-the-spot rules changes every year, and requires many hours on the part of candidates and supporters to defend signatures. No other state uses such a system.

* The “full slate” law which requires non-established parties to field candidates for all offices at a given jurisdictional level is unconstitutional for several reasons, especially equal protection and due process arguments under the 1st and 14th Amendments. In numerous counties either the Republicans or Democrats fail to field candidates for all county offices, yet the law demands that if a “new” party candidate wishes to run for county office, he or she must be part of a “full slate” for all county offices. Similarly, to run for Governor, a “new” party must field candidates for all other constitutional offices, whether they wish to or not.

* The notarization requirement for petitions is unconstitutional as it drastically limits approaches to organizing petition drives and yet fills no compelling state interest. Because petitions must be notarized, would-be signers cannot download a petition, sign it, and send it off, without first finding a notary, substantially curtailing their freedom of association.

The full slate of candidates includes Scott Summers of Harvard; Omar Lopez of Chicago; Bobby Pritchett Jr. of Roseville for Lieutenant Governor; David Black of Belvidere for Attorney General; Sheldon Schafer of Peoria for Secretary of State; Tim Curtin of Berwyn for Comptroller; and Julie Samuels of Oak Park for Treasurer. The candidates are joined in the suit by the Illinois Green Party, and by Rita Maniotis, Green Party Berwyn Township Committeeperson, who personally collected over 4,000 signatures.

“Over 100 people have done a massive amount of work to get on the ballot,” said Maniotis. “We have been burdened with these unfair requirements for years, and are forced to seek relief in the courts from rules meant to exclude third parties.”

Lead counsel for the plaintiffs are Chris Kruger of Evanston and Andrew Finko of Chicago. Last January, the Green Party and congressional candidate LeAlan Jones won injunctive relief in federal court against Illinois law governing signature requirements for special congressional elections.

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

The docket number is 14-cv-5398.

The pleadings are online at: ilgp.org/summers-v-smart/

Illinois Green Party: ilgp.org
Scott Summers for Governor: summersforgovernor.org

  1. Dave Schwab says:

    Just got an email from the ILGP that nicely summarizes what’s at stake:

    THE PETITION DRIVE

    On June 23rd, the Illinois Green Party submitted 29,707 signatures to the State Board of Elections in order to place our full slate of candidates on the November ballot – US Senate, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Comptroller, and Treasurer.

    Three volunteers in particular collected an insane number of signatures. Rita Maniotis collected 4,071, Sheldon Schafer collected 3,246, and Charlie Howe collected 2,066. Rich Whitney, Scott Summers, and Bill Kreml also collected over 1,000 signatures each. All together, 118 petition circulators came together with many other generous donors and volunteers in order to build the Green Party in Illinois. The voters of Illinois deserve candidates that will stand up for public education, teachers, children, the environment, unions, pensioners, and progressive taxation.

    THE CHALLENGE

    Illinois is notorious for its backwards and unfair “binder check” process. It’s a process that allows objectors to challenge individual signatures without any evidence, cause, or consequences. An extremely high burden of proof is automatically put on the defense who have already signed and notarized each individual petition sheet.

    Karen Yarbrough, the sitting Cook County Recorder of Deeds and a prominent Democrat, officially challenged our signatures on June 30th. Make no mistake, this is at the direct behest of Pat Quinn and Mike Madigan. What this potentially means is a grueling 3-4 weeks, 7 hours/day, of 8-10 people going line by line through our petition sheets, each with a hearing officer and a representative for Yarbrough. Independent Maps, in an attempt to put a statewide referendum on the ballot, just went through this process and lost. Some hearing officers tossed over 85% of their signatures. In 2006, putting our volunteers through this process set the actual campaign back until September with our people already burned out.

    THE LAWSUIT

    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.

    On July 15th, Scott Summers, Green Party candidate for Governor, and the slate of Green Party statewide candidates, filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to halt the state’s “binder check” process and have key provisions of the Illinois Election Code ruled unconstitutional. You can read more about the lawsuit here.

    RISE UP AGAINST THE MACHINE

    Overturning these key provisions of the election code doesn’t just help the Green Party. It doesn’t just help third parties and independents. It would bust open the Democratic and Republican primaries as well, making it easier for all candidates to actually get on the ballot and not be subject to harsh and arbitrary legal challenges. 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.

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