Friday, March 24, 2006

State Sen. James Meeks Is NOT An Independent

Contrary to what the media says and the State of Illinois website, Sen. Meeks was elected in 2002 as an Honesty and Integrity Party candidate, NOT an independent. It is harder to get on the ballot as an independent for State Senator or Representative in Illinois than it is in any election jurisdiction IN THE WORLD. (*Citation Ballot Access News Editor Richard Winger)

Sen. Meeks filed to run as a Democrat in the upcoming general election for his State Senate District needing 1,000 valid signatures. To run as an independent for State Senate, he would have needed 5,600 valid signatures in 90 days. A "new" party candidate would need 2,800 valid signatures in the 15th District.

IF he runs for Governor, he will NOT be an independent candidate. It's too late to run as an independent because of the pro-incumbent, discriminatory rules the Rs and Ds wrote. Illinois has the earliest deadline for independent statewide candidates of any state in America.

The petitioning period for independents was September 20th until December 19th, 2005. For "new" party candidates the petitioning period is March 28th to June 26th, 2006.

Theoretically, Sen. Meeks could run for Governor as an independent if Speaker Madigan and the General Assembly passed a bill changing the deadline, much like they did for President Bush in 2004. I doubt that will happen. There is also a current court case tackling this anti-democratic law,
Lee v Illinois Board of Elections, but it will unlikely be decided in time for this election.

So what will Sen. Meeks have to do to run for Governor?

He will have to form a "new" political party in Illinois. 25,000 valid petition signatures will need to be gathered between March 28th and June 26th, 2006. This actually means collecting as close to 50,000 raw signatures as possible to withstand ballot access challenges such as Speaker Madigan's challenge of Ralph Nader in 2004 that removed Nader from the ballot. Also, George Ryan's campaign and dozens of Secretary of State employees removed the Libertarian slate from the ballot in 1998 despite more than 60,000 raw signatures. Jim Ryan's campaign, Judy Baar Topinka and her Treasurer employees also attempted to kick the Libertarian slate off the ballot in 2002 but failed.

A full slate of candidates will have to appear on the petition. Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Treasurer, and Comproller. Sen. Meeks will have to recruit eligible candidates for these slots.

Sen. Meeks may be able to solicit more volunteer signatures than the average candidate, but typically a 25,000 signature petition drive costs at least $1.00-$1.50 per signature gathered on average. Running a petition drive of 25,000 valid signatures in 90 days pretty much requires someone full-time running the operation. After running the last successful statewide petition drive in Illinois of 25,000 signatures, I can assure you that it requires a lot more than 40 hours a week from the person running it. The Republican and Democrat candidates needed 5,000 valid signatures.

To put 50,000 raw signatures in perspective, consider this information. 10 signatures per hour going door to door is typical. 20-30 signatures per hour is typical when an experienced petitioner is working an area with lots of people such as a festival or college campus. So let's say a candidate can average 20 signatures per hour during their petition drive. With a 50,000 signature goal that means they need 2,500 hours of petitioning in 90 days, which is an average of about 28 hours per day petitioning.

Basically, they would need 4 full-time petitioners for 90 straight days with no days off, perfect weather, and really good places to petition available, and that is a very conservative estimate. Petitioning is extremely hard work day after day and expecting a full 8 hours from someone is crazy, believe me. Starting off with 10 full-time petitioners is advisable for any campaign wanting to meet this goal.

Of course if mostly part-time volunteers are used many more hours will be needed to complete the petition drive. And with more volunteers working that makes the job of managing the petition drive much more involved and time consuming. A campaign could easily expend 5,000 volunteer hours just getting on the ballot. Think about what else could be done for a campaign with 5,000 hours of work.

The process isn't over once the signatures are gathered either. Most likely someone that doesn't believe much in democracy or voter choice, such as Speaker Madigan or Governor Blagojevich, will try to kick these candidates off the ballot. Each signature will be checked one by one during a petition challenge. That process can take anywhere from 8 hours a day for two weeks to a month depending on how many government employees are available. Sen. Meeks and his slate can count on needing at least 8-15 people 8 hours a day for up a month to defend his signatures if he is challenged.

Even if the challenge isn't succesful at removing him from the ballot, it can and will create other problems for his campaign. Volunteers and workers on the campaign will be spending their time gathering and defending signatures instead of campaigning for their candidate. Money spent on the petition drive and challenge won't be used to spread the ideas of the campaign.

Donors will be more reluctant to give until they are sure the candidates will be on the ballot and that might not happen until the end of July at the earliest and as late as September or October if the petition challenge ends up in the courts. This will also hamper volunteer recruitment. Debate sponsors can and will exclude the candidates if they are not officially on the ballot yet, and polls taken can ignore the candidate. News media is notorious for ignoring "other" candidates that aren't on the ballot yet also. So even though opponents may know a challenge will not be successful, they will often do it anyway because it is an effective way to hamstring their opponent.

I say good luck to all the "new" party candidates that hope to run for statewide office, including the Green and Constitution candidates that have already announced but haven't gotten as much attention from media as Sen. Meeks already has. The cards are heavily stacked against them essentially giving the Republican and Democrats a monopoly on our elections and making Illinois one of the most anti-democratic democracies in the world.

Self-promotion of my own blog


Anonymous,  11:26 PM  

Send the petitions down to the southern part of the state. Anything to increase the chances of Blago being defeated are extremely popular down here. Those signatures should be pretty easy to obtain once the word is out as to why they are needed.

Anonymous,  8:37 AM  

If the Rev actually runs he could be as much of a threat to JBT as to the guv, who is seen as the main loser if he runs.

JBT will need crossover Dems to win because the conservatives are likely to sit out the election.
And a significant number of crossover Dems would probably rather not vote for a Repub if they had a viable choice.

So both candidates should be trying to reach an accommodation with the Rev. and his quest for more school funding. One can only hope that the accommodation does not include the promise of an income or sales tax increase.

Cal Skinner 11:30 AM  

I'm still wondering if Meeks will be honest enough to call his new party the "TAX HIKE Party."

More seriously, I would suggest that any new party that is challenged be ready to tape record the proceedings getting the face of every challenger on tape with a date stamp, so that evidence of any use of public employees on state time is available for presenation to the appropriate prosecutor.

Jeff Trigg 11:52 AM  

Tax Hike Party is VERY appropriate. I did learn from your suggestion when I was helping with Nader's challenge. I took video during the challenge of his workers. Better than that would have been to be outside Madigan's or Topinka's office in the morning and video his staff leaving there and have another video camera with them showing up at the elections office. That would also work when they are preparing the challenge the week before. I still think they are stupid/powerful enough to continue doing that also.

I'd like to see Meeks approach the teacher's unions about their millionaire pensions and get some compromises from them so more of the enormous amount of money already being thrown at education ends up in the classroom. That would tell me he's serious about the issue. Right now it just looks like he's pandering to the teacher's unions so they continue giving the black caucus huge campaign donations.

Anonymous,  8:27 PM  

You make a good point about how outrageously undemocratic Illinois law is regarding third parties and independents. It would be nice if more people had the opportunity to vote for someone who reflects their actual beliefs, and not have that vote be wasted. New York has a much better system.

Anonymous,  9:48 PM  

Well, seeing how Salem Baptist has 22,000 members and there are a lot of black churches in IL, this woill be no problem. You must also realize that Salem Baptist has done some partnering with predominatley white churches like Willow Creek. If you think churches gotv for th e DNC, wait until you seek how churches, especially black ones, unite for someone like Pastor Meeks. If he wants to, he will have no problem geting the workers/signatures to do it.

Anonymous,  9:51 PM  

Also, don't think that among all these churches, they cannot fill up a slate.

Jeff Trigg 10:36 PM  

I wasn't aware Salem was that large. That's almost 25% of the popluation in Peoria and would be a huge start for him. I don't doubt this will be an easier task for him than it is for a regular Joe without his connections. And if he wants to do it, I hope he does.

I admire Sen. Meeks a lot actually, for his willingness to operate outside of the two party monopoly even if it is only when it suits his interests. I wish he would do something about the discriminatory ballot access laws we have, but he's been silent on the issue of democratic elections.

Chuck Tinker,  7:19 AM  

I too hope Meeks will run. I think it could be the best thing for Illinois politics in a hundred years. As it is, we have 2 almost identical candidates to choose from, and that's no fun. Many people should help get Meeks on the ballot just for the fun of having the contest.

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