Yesterday, Illinois election officials determined that the names of four presidential candidates will be removed from that state’s ballot due to a failure of the parties to collect sufficient petition signatures. The state requires minor party and independent candidates to file 25,000 valid petitions.
Under normal circumstances, Illinois automatically accepts, and does not check or count, petition signatures. However, if a challenge is filed, the signatures are reviewed. It’s a policy that has resulted in numerous instances where candidates who have filed far fewer than the required number of signatures still get listed on the ballot.
The candidates impacted by the decision are Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party, Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party, Stewart Alexander of the Socialist Party, and Michael Hawkins who was running a one-state campaign on a party of his own creation. Goode’s campaign turned in around 300 signatures, Anderson’s submitted 2 petition signatures, and Alexander and Hawkins each submitted a single signature. All hoped to escape a challenge and win automatic spots on the November ballot.
In 2008, the Constitution Party’s nominee Chuck Baldwin won a spot on the ballot despite turning in only a few hundred signatures. The New Party also placed a man named John Joseph Polachek on the ballot, despite the fact that he had filed a petition form with no valid signatures on it.
Meanwhile, this year, the Libertarian Party turned in nearly 50,000 signatures and the Greens filed around 30,000 to place their nominees on in Illinois.
Rob Sherman, a frequent Green Party candidate for office and the current chairman of the Cook County Greens, decided to challenge the petitions of the four candidates who filed far fewer than the required number of signatures. This touched off a storm of controversy among Green Party and other minor party activists.
The national Green Party distanced themselves from Sherman, issuing a statement that read: “National Greens have come out against the challenge to the petitions of the Socialist, Justice Party and independent campaigns. Among ballot access advocates and Green Party organizers, this has become a problematic situation. While third parties share in common a complex set of exclusive ballot access laws, there has been a general sense of solidarity on the ballot access front. For an apparently significant Green Party leader to take the lead position to knock possibly four other third party candidates off the ballot in Illinois is significant, and possibly damaging for the Green Party. On the other hand, the Greens and Libertarians clearly put together the volunteers and resources to qualify for the ballot in Illinois, far in excess of the number of signatures that the four challenged parties submitted.”
Sherman, for his party, argued that the Green Party enlisted the help of hundreds of volunteers and spent thousands of dollars in collecting the number of signatures that they did. He defended his challenge in a post on Independent Political Report, noting that: “If you want to have volunteers, donors and paid staff willing to contribute the next time, you absolutely cannot disrespect their efforts by telling them that they just wasted ALL of their time and money, because candidates could have gotten on the ballot without doing ANY of the things that our people did. You won’t have volunteers and donors, the next time, if you do that.”
The November ballot in Illinois will contain the names of Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein.