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Orr urges three “modest” election reforms

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018

* Cook County Clerk David Orr…

Petition filing for the February municipal election in Chicago, a process that is painful and costly for candidates and confusing for voters, ended Monday. But it’s only the beginning of a very expensive month of litigation around voters’ signatures.

In May of this year, after once again experiencing an expensive and frustrating ballot access fight during the primary, I released a set of proposals to make determining who will be on the ballot easier for candidates, voters and election administrators. I am reissuing those proposals today.

The Chicago Sun-Times, for one, supported our proposals after we visited with their editorial board. The proposals were turned into legislation in Springfield, as well. If they can’t get through veto session, these reforms should be a priority for the next legislature and governor. Each day for the next six weeks we’ll hear about who is or isn’t going to be on the ballot, who did or did not demonstrate the levels of support by gathering signatures. And while the airwaves will be full of talk about process, they will not be full of candidates talking about safety, health care, policing and the future of our great city and metropolitan area. Chicago, Cook County, and Illinois deserve better. Though I am leaving elected office, I hope those that remain continue to reform the way we do business keeping voters at the center.

My office has pushed to consolidate and professionalize the administration of electoral boards for years. And while we have achieved some important reforms, like moving many small local boards to the jurisdiction of the County Clerk, more changes need to be made. We believe we can make these changes in part by harnessing the power of other election officials’ innovations to further expand access to the ballot.

Below are three modest reforms to the candidate filing and electoral board process that will help ensure that voters, administrators and candidates are best positioned to play their part in democracy. Through these efforts, we can increase the efficiency of the process for candidates and administrators, lower the burden on candidates and give the courts adequate time to sort through all issues.

    Increase Process Efficiency – In Denver and D.C., the petition process has moved from paper forms to tablets and we are ready here to allow petition circulating to be conducted in person, but with digital tools. The Denver Elections product, called eSign, is ready for Cook County.

    Like Election Day Registration, this can be piloted in Cook County so we can refine it for all of Illinois. We advocate making it available for candidates running for Cook County offices and local schools, parks, libraries and other districts wholly within suburban Cook County.

    eSign is a mobile application that enables candidates to gather signatures in person, but digitally, with real time feedback on whether the voter is registered or lives in the political district – and it allows signers to update their voter registrations on the spot. In Denver’s 2015 municipal election, 97 percent of eSign signatures collected were accepted. That’s up from about half that are usually considered good after adjudication here in Cook County. This is a huge win for candidates, for election administrators, and most importantly, for voters.

    Lower the Burden on Candidates, Save Time and Money – It’s time to lower the filing requirements for countywide offices in Cook County. It is not necessary to require more signatures for Water Commissioner or Clerk than we require for the Governor of our entire state. We call for a limit on the minimum number of signatures required for any countywide to be equal to the minimum required for Governor. I also call for a cap on the total number of signatures a candidate can file to three times the minimum – similar to candidates for state office.

    Currently for all countywide offices in Cook, petitions must be signed by at least .5% of the vote cast for the candidate of his/her party who received the highest number of votes in the county at the 2016 General Election. For Cook County Clerk, for example, that meant a Democratic candidate must have collected at least 8,200 signatures. In comparison, to run for Illinois Governor, candidates needed only 5,000. Our change would mean that Countywide candidates would need 5,000 good signatures and could file no more than 15,000.

    This would lower the burden of collection and shift the burden of proof to campaigns, prior to filing. This saves campaigns time and saves taxpayers and election officials money. It also helps ensure that when it’s time to vote, voters are presented with the final ballot, free of notices.

    Change the Calendar & Move the Primary Date – I am calling for an increase in time by two weeks between filing and Primary Election Day. This change, coupled with the others should ensure that courts have adequate time to give due process to candidates contesting electoral board decisions. It also helps ensure that administrators can safely remove or replace candidates on the ballot without relying on notices.

    This calendar change is best coupled with a move of the Primary Election to May or later. The election calendar is already too long – it promotes what are effectively endless campaigns. With the current calendar design, interested challengers must have made a decision, built a campaign and fundraised at least 15 months in advance of the actual election. This is not good for our democracy.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

19 Comments
  1. - Montrose - Tuesday, Nov 27, 18 @ 12:35 pm:

    Yes, Yes, and Yes.


  2. - Liandro - Tuesday, Nov 27, 18 @ 12:46 pm:

    All these things…seem to make a lot of sense.


  3. - Fixer - Tuesday, Nov 27, 18 @ 12:47 pm:

    Maybe I’m missing something here, but are any of these proposals necessarily bad ideas? I’m a little concerned with the eSignature thing, but that’s because the last wonder system implemented in the state is still rough around some pretty big edges.


  4. - PLEASE - Tuesday, Nov 27, 18 @ 12:49 pm:

    As somebody that has helped on petitions for the last few years, yes, PLEASE!!!


  5. - perry noya - Tuesday, Nov 27, 18 @ 12:49 pm:

    “This is not good for our democracy.” No, but it is good for incumbents, and that is the whole point.


  6. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Nov 27, 18 @ 12:53 pm:

    -The proposals were turned into legislation in Springfield, as well. If they can’t get through veto session, these reforms should be a priority for the next legislature and governor.-
    Rauner vetoed this? I wonder why.


  7. - Anonish - Tuesday, Nov 27, 18 @ 12:56 pm:

    A cottage industry will dry up if the eSign gets implemented with the same kind of success as Denver.


  8. - Cheryl44 - Tuesday, Nov 27, 18 @ 1:05 pm:

    We’re going to miss David Orr.


  9. - NeverPoliticallyCorrect - Tuesday, Nov 27, 18 @ 1:12 pm:

    Yes to all, but add my point on a different thread about signing multiple petitions. So which courageous politician will lead the charge to make these changes? Mike Madigan?


  10. - TopHatMonocle - Tuesday, Nov 27, 18 @ 1:14 pm:

    Just set a maximum number of signatures for every office and be done with it. There would be less fraud and it would be faster to review thus making the objection process easier for the Clerk and candidates to handle.


  11. - Rutro - Tuesday, Nov 27, 18 @ 1:19 pm:

    Ok, but… increasing the time, means less time for court challenges, see Kaegi fiasco.
    Also, if I want to check cook county signatures, I have to go to to david orr’s, if I want to check Chicago I have to go to the next floor, but when its time to do the challenge, the judge has both city/county on the same software, why make it hard to review them?
    Why not real reform and have elections and circulations when its not 10 degrees out?


  12. - PP - Tuesday, Nov 27, 18 @ 1:41 pm:

    Common Sense David Orr - he will be missed.


  13. - qualified someone nobody sent - Tuesday, Nov 27, 18 @ 1:49 pm:

    Consolidation of the County Clerk & Recorder of Deeds keeps Karen Yarbrough employed unfortunately. ORR retiring is a sad occasion for the taxpayers of Cook County and Clerk employee holdovers.


  14. - Precinct Captain - Tuesday, Nov 27, 18 @ 1:50 pm:

    Love and 1 and 2.

    If there is insistence that municipal elections happen in an odd-numbered year, I would make all non-partisan municipal elections a top-two system and have the primary in August and the general/runoff in November.


  15. - Ok - Tuesday, Nov 27, 18 @ 1:54 pm:

    Won’t somebody please think of the Kasper?


  16. - GV - Tuesday, Nov 27, 18 @ 1:57 pm:

    To add, petitions haven’t moved from paper form to tablet in DC. It is an option to use a mobile device for collecting signatures, however, I have yet to see anyone actually doing so. All the petitions I signed this primary season were on paper.


  17. - Scammers - Tuesday, Nov 27, 18 @ 2:07 pm:

    I’m all for allowing petition signatures to be collected on tablets, it will save time and money and drama. But I know I’m going to feel weird putting my personal info into some random person’s iPad waiting for my train.


  18. - Just Observing - Tuesday, Nov 27, 18 @ 2:16 pm:

    === But I know I’m going to feel weird putting my personal info into some random person’s iPad waiting for my train. ===

    Good point!


  19. - Gooner - Wednesday, Nov 28, 18 @ 6:36 am:

    One point on this. I wonder if people would be more reluctant to e-sign. Currently it takes less than a minute to get a signature. For people in dense urban areas where you get signatures by standing on the street and asking people to sign (rather than going door to door) people might give up that minute, but will they stop for two or three minutes, if that’s the time to enter the information?

    Beyond that, comparing signatures is going to be a challenge. My own signature on those credit card pads is nothing like my signature when I use a pen.

    I agree that reform is needed but I would like to see how these work on a more limited scale before going city-wide.


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