Election 2012: Laws Limit Third-Party Candidates in Illinois

Illinois Green Party Chairman Phil Huckelberry discusses his party's struggle
to compete financially in Illinois. (Video by Chris Burrows and Allison Horne)

By Allison Horne and Chris Burrows
The Red Line Project

Posted: Friday, Nov. 2, 2012

The course of the electoral system was the first order of business last month when four presidential candidates convened at the Hilton in Chicago for the third-party debate.

Although they represent fundamentally different points on the political spectrum, Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party, Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Jill Stein of the Green Party, agreed that the U.S. electoral system has some major flaws.

“Our electoral system has been so constricted; Our democracy so degraded by [the Republican and Democratic parties] from the very beginning in terms of ballot access,” Anderson said in his opening remarks.

Despite the threat to third-party candidates from the Citizens United decision and the proposed top-two primary system, ballot access remains one of their greatest challenges.

In Colorado, for example, prospective candidates for president need only submit $500 and an affidavit of intent, according to USA Today. As a result, Colorado voters will be able to choose from 16 different candidates for president.

But in Illinois, as in many states, prospective local and national candidates must fulfill much more strenuous requirements. That includes getting 25,000 signatures for candidates for national office. Additionally, any Illinois citizen can challenge the legitimacy of a candidate’s filing.

Illinois citizens filed 57 challenges this election season, resulting in the removal of 35 candidates from Illinois ballots. Another 22 candidates have withdrawn their candidacy.

As a result, only five third-party candidates for state and local offices officially remain as choices for Illinois voters.

Here are those candidates, the officially-recognized write-in candidates on Illinois ballots, what they stand for and their struggles to gain ballot access in Illinois.

Green Party

Green Party LogoCandidates on Illinois ballots: Jill Stein/Cheri Honkala (President/Vice President), Nancy Wade (5th U.S. Congressional District, Paula Bradshaw (12th U.S. Congressional District), Frank Wedig (McHenry County Board), Karen Roothaan and Dave Ehrlich (Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Chicago)

Presidential candidate and Massachusetts physician Jill Stein grabbed headlines on Oct. 16 when she was arrested along with her running mate for stepping onto the grounds of the presidential debate at Hofstra University.

Her left-leaning party managed to secure ballot access for two U.S. congressional candidates in Illinois, and party chairman Phil Huckelberry says the Green Party has a hard-line stance on social issues that the mainstream candidates have ignored.

“We are strict down the line pro social justice,  civil rights, gay marriage, all of that,” Huckelberry said. ” The Republicans absolutely aren’t. The Democrats waffle, but if you actually look at the way it’s played out in a lot of places, they’re not on board with all of that either.”

Huckelberry said that pension reform and education policy are major priorities for his party in Illinois, but that sound environmental policy can drive positive change.

“If we take money from nuclear, and take money away from coal, and take money away from oil that government is actually pumping into those things, we can better the environment,” Huckelberry said. “We can lower energy costs. We can put a lot of people back to work, and by putting people back to work we can build the tax base back up.”

Stein is on the ballot in 37 states and Washington D.C

Libertarian Party

Libertarian LogoCandidates on Illinois ballots: Gary Johnson/Jim Gray (President/Vice President)

The Libertarian party fielded a full cast of state-level candidates to support Lex Luther’s bid for Illinois governor in 2010, but in 2012 both of their state-level candidates were removed from the ballot after challenges. Only former New Mexico governor and failed Republican party candidate Gary Johnson remains. He is on the ballot in every U.S. state except Michigan and Oklahoma.

“We ended up submitting 43,000 signatures, and we didn’t get challenged, so we were able to secure ballot access,” Illinois Campaign Director Noah Pokorny said. “We weren’t as lucky in some of our local races.”

The Libertarians combine parts of liberal and conservative philosophy that advocates for limited government, decreased spending and greater freedoms.

“On fiscal issues, we’re to the right of the Republicans, and on social issues we’re to the left of the Democrats,” Pokorny said. ”[Johnson] is currently the only candidate that’s proposing to submit a balanced budget to congress in his year in office, and he’s also advocating putting an end to the war on drugs and repealing the Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act.”

In fact, all four third-party candidates said at the third-party debate that they would support repealing NDAA. And on social issues?

“The Libertarian Party is actually advocating full-on marriage equality across the board on a federal level,” Pokorny said.

Justice Party

Justice Party LogoCandidates on Illinois ballots: Rocky Anderson/Luis Rodriguez (President/Vice President)*

A new face in the third-party crowd, the Justice Party was started just nine months ago in Utah. Their name says it all—this left-leaning party is all about bringing justice where justice is denied.

“The Justice Party is about social, environmental and economic justice,” Anderson’s press secretary, Sally Soriano said. “Anderson talks about what’s not being brought up in the mainstream debates. They don’t talk about climate change, shrinking the war budget and transferring that to jobs, and the erosion of civil liberties in Illinois.”

A sticking point for the party is the justice system. According to Soriano, the U.S. spends $64 billion per year on its overwhelming prison population.

“Just think if we gave that money to a community college for scholarships,” Soriano said. “What a difference that would be.”

But like the other third parties, the Justice Party had trouble getting on the ballot in Illinois. This year they didn’t even attempt gaining ballot access in Illinois because they simply could not afford to pay volunteers the cut-rate fee of $1 per signature in a state where $2 is the norm, Soriano said. The party is content with earning attention for their cause.

“This is the only way that people are going to start hearing about third parties,” Soriano said. “It’s hugely important for friends and families to talk about this option because it’s not out there as much. If we can get this discussion going, that is what we need.

Constitution Party

Constitution Party LogoCandidates on Illinois ballots: Virgil Goode/James Clymer (President/Vice President)*, Dale Dorch (State Representative 117th district)


The Constitution Party has had real problems getting on the ballot in Illinois.

“The toughest obstacle that any third party faces is ballot access,” Illinois State Chairman Tim Pearcy said. “And Illinois is one of the tougher ballot access states.”

In 2010, the party turned in 33,000 signatures for their slate of state-level candidates, but around 8,000 of those were tossed out, leaving them with 24,965 —35 short of the minimum.

This year, the Constitution Party simply couldn’t raise enough signatures to get Goode, their party’s presidential nominee onto the ballot in Illinois, even though he is on the ballot in 26 other states. However, Dale Dorch will represent the party with a bid for the seat representing the 117th district in the Illinois House of Representatives.

“Everyone knows you need to get 50,000 signatures so that they will not be challenged,” Pearcy said. “To get 25,000 signatures, you have to turn in almost double that. That means you have to spend $100,000 just to get on the ballot. We’re not really spending any money here on our presidential race. We had to jump through hoops to even become a viable candidate.”

The Constitution Party stands firmly on the conservative end of the spectrum, and Goode has shown a great deal of political range throughout the years. He started out as a Democrat in the House of Representatives representing Virginia in 1997 and later switched to the Republican Party in 2000. After losing his seat in 2008, he decided to go back to his roots and join the Constitution Party.

“In a lot of ways we could be viewed as more to the right of Republicans,” Pearcy said. “We are very socially conservative and fiscally conservative. Some of our views are so conservative and constitutional because we go back to the founders of the nation.”

* Denotes write-in status only

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