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Question of the day

Monday, Sep 16, 2019

* Citizen Advocacy Center Executive Director Maryam Judar speaking at a Center for Illinois Politics forum

“Any challenger [to an incumbent] is challenged themselves,” typically through disputed signatures needed to make it on the ballot.

“There’s a reason we have many uncontested elections in Illinois. The ballot process requires money for election lawyers.”

The petition binding laws and surrounding court cases alone can easily knock candidates off the ballot.

Others, including the Tribune editorial board, say the big reason for so many uncontested races here is gerrymandering

Often, the loaded dice mean there is no game at all. Of 39 state senators up for election, 20 had no opponent.

OK, but Wisconsin’s gerrymandering process is said to be much more political than Illinois’ and of 17 state Senate seats up for election last year, only four were uncontested.

* The Question: How responsible are Illinois’ ballot access laws for our large number of uncontested legislative races? Don’t forget to explain your answer. Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

25 Comments
  1. - Blue Dog Dem - Monday, Sep 16, 19 @ 3:22 pm:

    The two party system has written the rules. Thank them both for all the uncontested races.


  2. - NIU Grad - Monday, Sep 16, 19 @ 3:26 pm:

    I would point the finger more at the ballot access requirements/rules than at gerrymandering. Even with a “non-political” process of drawing districts, it wouldn’t ignore the fact that so many regions of the state have a solid lean towards one party or another. I don’t think eliminating gerrymandering is going to magically create a plethora of Republican opponents in Chicago general elections.


  3. - Former Candidate on the Ballot - Monday, Sep 16, 19 @ 3:33 pm:

    80% - But for the right reasons in my opinion. The rule are restrictive and cause a candidate to do WORK! If you have trouble following rules and working hard talking to your potential constituents, then you are probably not the best candidate and hence the process has done its job to protect the public from an unqualified public official.


  4. - Rich Miller - Monday, Sep 16, 19 @ 3:41 pm:

    ===hence the process has done its job to protect the public from an unqualified public official===

    Sounds just a little like Vladimir Putin’s recent justification for kicking opposition candidates off the ballot.


  5. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Sep 16, 19 @ 3:46 pm:

    Probably 50% + 1 responsible.

    As a strong advocate of “run ‘em all”, there’s a need to look at ballot access here in Illinois.

    That said, there needs to be a threshold, and a monetary number for ballot access seems too… obligatory… almost a trolling… “money gets you anything”

    Signatures as a base line for access is a good measure.

    We can talk about the numbers and thresholds, but there needs to be a bit of a measure to get access.


  6. - Peoples Republic of Oak Park - Monday, Sep 16, 19 @ 3:49 pm:

    Its not gerrymandering, its not ballot access, its a combination of both.

    As well as the terrible pay for the “part-time” job that has you on call 24/7 365, the tone of campaigns that dehumanize candidates to peices of meat, and issues facing the state that are so daunting that even experts shake their heads and shrug their shoulders.

    I am suprised we had 58 people run for the Senate to begin with.


  7. - Anon - Monday, Sep 16, 19 @ 3:53 pm:

    Some but not a lot. For state rep it is 500-1500 signatures and for state senate it is 1000-3000. You have 3 months to collect them. I don’t think that is a huge hurdle for a serious candidate. Each rep district is over 100,000 and the senate districts are twice that size.


  8. - Rich Miller - Monday, Sep 16, 19 @ 3:56 pm:

    ===For state rep it is 500-1500 signatures===

    Valid signatures. You forgot that. It’s the word wherein the rub lies.


  9. - Norseman - Monday, Sep 16, 19 @ 3:56 pm:

    No, not functionally.

    If your definition of “contested” is to have at least two bodies on the ballot for an elected office, then by all means eliminate the these access requirements. This will not guarantee a true contested election if the extra body doesn’t have the financial and volunteer support to compete. While there may be some changes that could improve the ballot access process, having a candidate demonstrate some level of support is not unreasonable.


  10. - Former Candidate on the Ballot - Monday, Sep 16, 19 @ 4:00 pm:

    Not my intent Rich - OW articulated it a little better.

    I think obtaining signatures from eligible registered voters and preparing your petition packet for submission is a proper threshold to getting on the ballot. There are details to be aware of - which are not that complicated - if you read the guidelines published by the election commission. The process is set up for the candidate to read, comprehend what they read, and then work to execute.

    Maybe we can talk about the quantity of signatures needed, but the rest of it is pretty simple in my opinion.


  11. - Chicagonk - Monday, Sep 16, 19 @ 4:08 pm:

    Here are some issues that I see
    - Filing deadlines are too early (especially if you can’t get signatures until September)
    - Independent candidate signature requirements should be cut in half
    - Allow people to sign online for candidates rather than on a sheet that needs to be notarized.
    - Allow people to sign petitions for candidates of different political parties as long as they are competing in different races.


  12. - Roman - Monday, Sep 16, 19 @ 4:13 pm:

    It has little to do with gerrymandering and a whole lot to do with restrictive ballot access rules.

    In Wisconsin, you only need 200 signatures to get on the ballot for state rep. It’s even easier in many other states. Several allow ballot access by paying a small filing fee (it’ll cost you just 10 bucks in New Hampshire.)


  13. - RWP - Monday, Sep 16, 19 @ 4:17 pm:

    I just don’t think it is that restrictive with regard to ballot access if you are running for a spot ons of the two parties ballott. I would reduce the number of signatures for 3rd party candidates to the highest number required for by either the D or R candidates (if the highest number was required for the Republican, use that; if for the Democrat, use that). If a candidate cannot get eough support to get the number of signatures to qualify for the ballot (and withstand a challenge) they probably are not ready to mount a campaign. It is however, the overall cost and that has to include legal fees and attorney costs that drives many people away and the time it is going to take to campaign and the general act of campaigning…………………………………….


  14. - The Captain - Monday, Sep 16, 19 @ 4:17 pm:

    I would say above average but I consider that a feature and not a bug. The ballot shouldn’t look like the phone book (if you’re not old enough to get that reference please don’t make us feel old, it’s a Monday). There should be some effort required to make the ballot, either hard work, financial or both. We can debate how much effort should be necessary to make the ballot and whether or not the current requirements are the right ones but I don’t think letting anyone on the ballot with little or no effort would be an improvement.


  15. - SSL - Monday, Sep 16, 19 @ 4:25 pm:

    Maybe holding public office just isn’t as attractive as it used to be? You think Madigan is having much fun these days?


  16. - former rep candidate - Monday, Sep 16, 19 @ 4:39 pm:

    If 500 signatures is an impediment to a State Rep candidate then they have organizational issues before they even start. I was able to get 500 Dem signatures myself in about a month during the last election cycle. Helpers got another 200-300 or so. And all done in a Republican majority district.


  17. - h'okay - Monday, Sep 16, 19 @ 4:41 pm:

    “- Allow people to sign online for candidates rather than on a sheet that needs to be notarized.”

    Oh yeah, nothing could possibly go wrong with that. Plus the internet is so secure and everyone is always so honest.


  18. - MyTwoCents - Monday, Sep 16, 19 @ 5:31 pm:

    I don’t have an issue with signature requirements, but I think a long hard look needs to be made at ballot access laws that seemed designed to do nothing but create a cottage industry for lawyers. The petition binding is a perfect example of that. Simplify the laws and that will help with competition.


  19. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Sep 16, 19 @ 5:40 pm:

    Also, I have not generally found the advice of people with zero prior experience running campaigns to be too helpful when it comes to political reform, except for Rich and a few other notable people.

    Despite what you might have heard, there are a lot of good, decent, honest people from both sides of the aisle who have well-grounded ideas for strengthening the body politic, some active and many more retired.

    Ask them for a change.

    500 good signatures is a candidate and ten volunteers, for heaven’s sake.


  20. - Pot calling kettle - Monday, Sep 16, 19 @ 7:08 pm:

    Access is an issue.

    I’ve gone through the process on several levels (State Rep, school board, pct committeeperson). I might lower the # of signatures for state rep and state senate bit, but not much. 500 is reachable, but if you have a day job and a family…I think the old #s (300 and 600?) were better. I also think those numbers should apply to anyone running for the office (party or not).

    The big changes I would make would be to dump the nit-picky stuff like correct binding. Shift the signature requirement to “registered voter in the district,” and allow voters to sign any petition they like and as many as they like regardless of office or party affiliation.

    I’d like to make the election authority the primary screen (they would count the signatures and make sure they are register voters), but that would be expensive…I would limit the criteria for challenges to # and validity of signatures (and that would be limited to “registered voters in the district”).


  21. - ArchPundit - Monday, Sep 16, 19 @ 8:17 pm:

    There are two factors that are most important–the challenge/signature rules that do make it hard to run as a candidate without party support is the first. The second is how damn early the primary is. February/March is just way to early for a party primary. It should be early May or there abouts. The early primary date makes it a longer campaign cycle and harder on people to take as much time off. Gerrymandering has an effect, but I doubt it’s much of one given the natural sorting of voters.


  22. - ArchPundit - Monday, Sep 16, 19 @ 8:19 pm:

    And I’m not against some barrier to entry, but lower than it is now and reducing challenges to signatures would still keep ballot size manageable in most races and give better access.


  23. - Not a Billionaire - Monday, Sep 16, 19 @ 8:38 pm:

    My wife is always unopposed for a countywide office that often has unfilled seats and this is the first stage that turns most people away.


  24. - Just Me 2 - Monday, Sep 16, 19 @ 8:50 pm:

    Requiring a high number of signature doesn’t bother me, but kicking people off the ballot for small stuff like not having a form filled out perfectly is maddening. You shouldn’t need to hire a lawyer just to get on the ballot.


  25. - anon2 - Tuesday, Sep 17, 19 @ 6:17 am:

    One clear reason for the lack of competition is the change a few years ago to require appointed candidates to submit the same number of signatures as candidates who file in the primary. Until 2010, party officials could fill vacancies by appointment, with no signature requirement. Legislators knew what they were doing when they mandated signatures for appointees.


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