* If passed, this would be a long overdue change, but it doesn’t get to the root of the problem…
Incumbents are one step closer to losing the power to kick opponents off suburban ballots after a proposal cleared an initial hurdle in the Illinois Senate.
The measure would abolish the controversial, 120-year-old system of local election panels that critics say allows a suburb’s incumbent politicians to unfairly settle an election by clearing the ballot of rivals on technicalities.
After years of inaction in the General Assembly, a state Senate committee voted 11-2 Wednesday to move the measure to the floor.
The vote came a month after a Tribune investigation found the system riddled with conflicts of interest and questionable rulings that led to fewer choices for tens of thousands of suburban voters.
The Tribune found that at least 200 municipal candidates faced ballot-access objections this year, most of them alleging paperwork errors in candidate petition filings. With the panels, local incumbents get to rule on whether those infractions warrant kicking candidates off the ballot for thousands of municipal, township, school board and community college offices.
Of the 76 candidates removed from the ballot this year by panels, the Tribune found that most fell at the hands of panels stacked with members who had a political stake in the decisions.
What’s really needed, however, is some clear and precise legislative clarifications about what, exactly should disqualify ballot petitions. Too much interpretation is left to local boards and the courts, and we wind up with wildly conflicting rules.
* For example, in some areas, using paperclips to fasten petitions sheets together will disqualify petitions. In other areas, paperclips are fine.
This stuff happens all the time and it’s just plain goofy. All it’s doing is making money for lawyers.
Legislators love the ambiguities for obvious reasons - they generally have the money to keep themselves out of trouble and on the ballot. Their opponents often don’t.
Handing this responsibility over to county panels won’t be nearly enough. We need better regulations.
* And it’s not just petitions. In some counties, if you withdraw from a campaign after the ballot printing deadline, votes for you won’t be counted. In other counties, those votes are counted.
Legislators and/or the State Board of Elections need to step up here.