Thursday, January 18, 2007

Paper Tigers

Cross posted from ICPR's blog, The Race is On:

ICPR supports protecting the integrity of elections. We believe that candidates should demonstrate a level of popular support before they can be listed on the ballot. We believe that election officials should do what they must to ensure smooth-running elections. And we believe that voters have a right to know about candidates' personal finances generally and their campaign finances specifically.

We are troubled, though, by media reports of candidates being knocked off the ballot for failing to cross every t and dot every i when they file petitions. What began as a process to ensure that voters would see only candidates making serious runs for office has in some places devolved into a process that ensures that voters see only the names of incumbents.

In at least three instances, candidates for office in Chicago, Decatur and Forest Park were thrown off the ballot for failing to file the receipt for their Statement of Economic Interest along with their petitions. In each of these instances, the candidates claim that they did in fact file the Statements of Economic Interest prior to filing petitions, ensuring that voters had access to the same information about them as about other candidates. But due to clerical error, a misunderstanding of Illinois' election law, or forgetfulness, they did not file the receipt for the Statement along with their petitions. And for that reason alone, they won't be on the ballot.

It's hard to see how the public interest is served in this instance by denying voters the chance to see these candidates on the ballot. Illinois' Constitution requires that candidates file Statements of Economic Interest and says that any candidate who fails to do so forfeits the right to appear on the ballot (office holders, too, forfeit their office by failing to file). But these candidates did file the Statement. It's only in statute that the law directs election authorities to deny candidates a spot on the ballot for not filing the receipt.

These rules seem arbitrary and intended for some purpose other than protecting the integrity of the election, especially since some flaws can be fixed after the petitions are filed while others, like the Statement receipt, cannot. The goal of the election is to give voters a choice among serious, credible candidates to select who is best fit to hold office. The rules should not be used unreasonably to narrow that choice to one between the incumbent and nobody else.

8 comments:

fedup dem,  9:41 AM  

You are absolutely correct. In one case here in Chicago, 48th Ward Alderbitch Mary Ann "Milli Vanilli" Smith is knocking off all her opponents (including one just back from the Army and one who didn't attach the Statement of Economic Interests form like you described). As far as I'm concerned, slime like Smith should be treated like an enemy combatant!

Anonymous,  11:26 AM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
David 12:40 PM  

I do appreciate feedback, but comments that are overlong, off-topic *and* anonymous will be deleted.

Cal Skinner 12:43 PM  

They are to make it harder for outsiders to get on the ballot, Dave.

That's pretty obvious.

David 12:57 PM  

Thanks, Cal. Short, on-point, and signed. Gotta love that.

Jeff Trigg 1:45 PM  

Good post. Definitely a problem. I notied Krause put in HJR 3 to form a Campaign Finance Reform Task Force. We need a Ballot Access Reform Task Force to look at overhauling the entire ballot access process in Illinois, especially in light of the 7th Circuit's ruling that our ballot access laws violate the 1st and 14th Amendments. We need to look at other states and other countries and find what is the most effective and efficient system. Illinois' is one of the worst and can and should be simplified. The whole challenge process is arbitrary and extremely costly to taxpayers.

There are plenty of ticky tacky things they throw you off the ballot for just like the examples you gave. Using legal size paper for petitions but standard size for other required forms can get you thrown off. Using the wrong type of binding can get you thrown off. Not having the district number in the right location will get you thrown off. Yes it's obvious these rules are not used to protect against "cluttered" ballots, but are used as a weapon to protect incumbents.

As for demonstrating a level of popular support, that level should be the same for everyone. The level shouldn't be 200 signatures for a Lyndon LaRouche candidate running as a Democrat and 14,000 signatures for an independent candidate, as we currently have in US House districts. Except for very rare exceptions like the California recall, there isn't a state in the US where too many candidates on the ballot is a problem and almost all other states have much easier ballot access requirements than Illinois.

As for giving voters serious, credible candidates I have to say it is the voters job and right to determine which candidates are serious and credible, not the Republican and Democratic parties' job or right.

The perfect system doesn't exist, but we sure can do a lot better than what we have now.

Anonymous,  8:25 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous,  9:58 PM  

Mike Kasper and James Nally are the worse at frivolous shotgun challenges.

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