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Illinois Green Party Files Lawsuit Over Petition Hurdles

On July 15, the Illinois Green Party and its statewide slate of candidates filed a federal lawsuit against three aspects of Illinois petitioning for unqualified parties. The case challenges the process when a petition is challenged. As in Pennsylvania, the process requires the petitioning group to produce a dozen or so individuals who are expected to defend individual signatures at the office of the State Board of Elections, all day long, typically for a full work week. The Complaint points out that when the major parties challenge minor party petitions, typically the major party challengers are financially able to pay individuals to do that work. The case is Summers v Smart, 1:14cv-5398. The case was assigned to U.S. District Court Judge John J. Tharp, Jr., who has a good record on ballot access. He wrote the decision in Jones v McGuffage, 921 F Supp 2d 888 (2013), which said Illinois had to reduce the number of signatures needed in special elections, when the petitioning period is shorter.

The case also challenges the unique Illinois law that requires newly-qualifying parties to run a full slate of candidates, even though Illinois does not require ballot-qualified parties to run a full slate. The Complaint points out that for a statewide slate, that requires the party to run a qualified attorney for Attorney General, and that this year, the Illinois Green Party’s preparations for the petition drive had to wait until the party had found such an individual. Finally, the case challenges the law requiring each petition sheet to be notarized. The Complaint notes that when challengers list the signatures they believe are invalid, their work doesn’t need to be notarized.

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