Monday, April 28, 2008

Hearing Scheduled on HB5263

The Illinois Senate Local Government Committee has scheduled a hearing on HB5263 for Tuesday, April 29, 2008. HB5263 seeks to end the ability of established political party committees to easily "slate" candidates--filling vacancies in nomination and certifying candidates to be placed on the ballot where none of that party's candidates ran in the primary election.

One interesting aspect of the bill is that it requires established party candidates seeking to be slated to file nominating petitions "in the same manner as an independent candidate" which means that (1) established parties will need to find all their candidates by about August, rather than doing any last minute recruiting; and (2) those candidates will actually need to collect more signatures than established party candidates running in the primary. (The ballot access requirements for independent candidates in Illinois were held to be unconstitutional by the United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit, on September 18, 2006.)

“From our perspective, we suspect that it’s possibly because of all the success we’ve had in running candidates in the primary and in slating candidates to provide more open competition in the state,” Sheldon Schafer, Green Congressional Candidate in the 18th Congressional District, was quoted as having said in an article published by the Peoria Journal Star.

The Green Party is the only statewide established, major political party in the State of Illinois, other than the Democratic and Republican parties; and this year, according to Ballot Access News, the party slated more candidates than it ran in the primary, adding 7 candidates for Congress and 1 candidate for U.S. Senate, for a total of 15 federal legislative offices. Sixteen state legislative candidates were also added for a total of 19; and at the county level, the party recruited 10 new candidates, including 5 in Cook County, to bring the total to 26 county candidates across the state.

"It had nothing to do with third parties," said Republican State Representative Mike Fortner, the bill's primary sponsor, "This doesn’t restrict them in any way.

Here is a related piece of case law for readers to discuss in their comments:

"A political party has a First Amendment right to limit its membership as it wishes, and to choose a candidate-selection process that will in its view produce the nominee who best represents its political platform." Democratic Party of United States v. Wisconsin ex rel. La Follette, 450 U. S. 107, 122 (1981); California Democratic Party v. Jones, 530 U. S. 567, 574–575 (2000).

I would like to take this opportunity to remind readers that the process by which a political party demonstrates a modicum of support in order to earn ballot access or the right to place candidates on the ballot (usually by earning a certain percentage of votes in a previous election) and the process by which such a party actually selects or chooses those candidates are two entirely separate issues. The state obviously has a right to determine what modicum of support a political party must show (percentage of the vote) before being granted ballot access; however, once ballot access has been achieved, don't political parties, which are private and voluntary membership associations, have the right to choose whatever candidate-selection process they so desire--including slating candidates, without petitioning, by party committees after primaries?

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