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Illinois third party full-slate law struck down by federal appeals court

Tuesday, Sep 26, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* This appellate court ruling in the 7th US Circuit is pretty self-explanatory

Illinois law prevents political parties from fielding candidates on election ballots unless they meet certain conditions. One condition is known as the full-slate requirement: If a party hasn’t attained sufficient voter support in past elections, it must field candidates for all offices on the ballot in the political subdivision in which it wishes to compete. So in the 2012 election, the Libertarian Party of Illinois could field a candidate for county auditor in Kane County only if it also proposed candidates for circuit clerk, recorder, prosecutor, coroner, board chairman, and school superintendent.

In this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Libertarian Party argues that the full-slate requirement violates its right of political association under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The district judge agreed and entered judgment invalidating the requirement. On appeal Illinois contends that the full-slate requirement is justified by its interests in political stability, preventing ballot overcrowding, and avoiding voter confusion.

We affirm the district court. The core of the fundamental right to political association is the right to band together in a political party to advance a policy agenda by electing the party’s members to office. That necessarily includes the party’s right to access the ballot and its candidates’ right to appear on the ballot under the party banner. For a minor party and its nominees, Illinois’s full-slate requirement extinguishes those rights unless the party fields candidates in races it may want no part of. This is a severe burden on fundamental constitutional rights, and Illinois hasn’t offered a compelling state interest to justify it. Indeed, by incentivizing minor parties to manufacture frivolous candidacies as a means to an end, the full-slate requirement actually thwarts the interests Illinois invokes.

Hat tip: Chicago Law Bulletin.


  1. - Come on Man! - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 11:07 am:

    Now maybe we can do away with those silly signature requirements.

  2. - Fax Machine - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 11:17 am:

    Big news for IUOE - they can run a 3rd party Gov candidate to the right of Rauner with a name like Pro-Life Party without fielding a full slate of sham candidates.

  3. - Northsider - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 11:24 am:

    I’m glad to see this. The ballot belongs to all of us, not just the Democratic and Republican Parties.

    Any word yet whether the state plans a SCOTUS appeal?

  4. - cdog - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 11:29 am:

    Wow. Good deal.

    This was pretty weak soup, “..the full-slate requirement is justified by its interests in political stability, preventing ballot overcrowding, and avoiding voter confusion.”

  5. - Anon221 - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 11:30 am:

    “On appeal Illinois contends that the full-slate requirement is justified by its interests in political stability (read- only want a two-party system), preventing ballot overcrowding (NOT a problem in most cases especially in downstate areas), and avoiding voter confusion (STOP being paternalistic).” (My comments in ())

    As an Independent, I welcome the addition of other parties to the ballot. Maybe this will help recharge voter complacency and increase turnout and interest especially in local and regional races.

  6. - King Louis XVI - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 11:45 am:


    This means more candidates and that the established party candidates need to hustle more.

  7. - josh - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 11:54 am:

    Chicago DAILY Law Bulletin

  8. - Ahoy! - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 11:56 am:

    Excellent news but it needs to be a small step towards larger election reforms. We should not even have government funded partisan primary systems. We should look to California’s model for open primaries which would be the same we elected our municipal governments.

    We also need equal ballot access and fair maps. Let’s all work toward ending our archaic election system.

  9. - RNUG - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 12:11 pm:

    You could see this ruling coming. It would be a waste to appeal; they are likely to lose at SCOTUS also.

  10. - Steve - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 12:37 pm:

    Whether you agree or disagree: wouldn’t it be better if Illinois courts dealt with this issue instead of federal judges??

  11. - MakeAmericaGreenAgain - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 1:09 pm:

    “parties to manufacture frivolous candidacies as a means to an end”

    This is what Republicans and Democrats have been doing for years. :)

  12. - Jeff Trigg - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 1:22 pm:

    >>Whether you agree or disagree: wouldn’t it be better if Illinois courts dealt with this issue instead of federal judges??

  13. - Jeff Trigg - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 1:24 pm:

    Signature Requirements for the 5th Illinois Supreme Court District.

    Democrat - 634
    Republican - 977
    Independent - 25,000

    Article III,Section 3 of the Illinois Constitution.

    “All elections shall be free and equal.”

    The answer to your question is no.

  14. - Downstate43 - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 1:40 pm:

    === This was pretty weak soup, “..the full-slate requirement is justified by its interests in political stability, preventing ballot overcrowding, and avoiding voter confusion.” ===

    Have you ever seen what ballots look like in Central and South America? Granted, it is a weaker excuse in a jurisdiction with well-established laws regarding appearing on a ballot and the ballots themselves.

  15. - Jeff Trigg - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 1:42 pm:

    Good to see yet another anti-democratic election law bite the dust. The 10% signature requirement for independents running for the General Assembly, the early petition deadline the year before the election for independent candidates, and the primary screen out which made it illegal for someone to vote in the primary if they signed an independent’s petitions have also been ruled to be in violation of the 1st and/or 14th Amendments.

    There will be more, such as the 5% requirement for independents to run for US House, because the argument the state always uses, political stability, preventing ballot overcrowding, and avoiding voter confusion, is just a bunch of whining that is never backed up in actual fact.

    As you are about to see with the Democrat’s AG primary, there is an obvious double standard at play, especially concerning cluttered ballots. If there’s more than two candidates on the general election ballot it is cluttered, but if there are 8 candidates on the primary ballot it isn’t a big deal. There are no places in the US where they have a problem with cluttered ballots, and assuming voters get confused with more than two candidates on a ballot is laughable.

    It is so blatant that even the partisan Rs and Ds on the courts have started to admit the election laws are rigged against competition getting on the ballot. 60% of General Assembly races are typically unopposed, so the cluttered ballot argument is obviously ridiculous.

    California’s Top Two is only good if you want one party rule. The majority of the democracies around the world use proportional representation with equal ballot access for all, that is a vastly superior system to Top Two.

  16. - Johnyy Justice - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 2:17 pm:

    Great decision for democracy. While Lisa Madigan has generally been a good AG, she’s been extremely regressive on ballot access. She sent 6 Assistant AGs to the oral argument on this case. Lisa has fought every ballot access case tooth & nail, and fortunately lost this one & others. Since we are electing a new AG, we need one who supports democracy by agreeing to the striking down of regressive ballot access restrictions. Let’s hear from AG candidates on this!

  17. - anonymous - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 2:25 pm:

    ===Have you ever seen what ballots look like in Central and South America?===

    What is your point? That permitting 3rd party candidates to appear on a ballot in Illinois is a slippery slope to becoming a banana republic? Really?

  18. - anon2 - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 7:03 pm:

    A big victory for ballot access. Congrats to those responsible.

  19. - theCardinal - Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 10:01 pm:

    Good, now we can get some ex cons and porn stars on the ballot. We need choices people.

  20. - Jeff Trigg - Wednesday, Sep 27, 17 @ 9:34 am:

    theCardinal, equating independents and everyone else who is not a Democrat or Republican as ex-cons and porn stars makes you look like a bigot. Maybe just keep your ignorant opinion to yourself next time.

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