Courts Says Ill. Independent Candidates Face Toughest Hurdles in U.S.

September 20, 2006

A federal appeals court declared Monday that the unusually high hurdles independent candidates for the Illinois legislature must clear to get their names on the ballot are unconstitutional.

“They are the most restrictive in the nation and have effectively eliminated independent legislative candidacies from the Illinois political scene for a quarter of a century,” a three-judge panel of the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said in its 17-page decision.

The appeals court said that of the 28 states that require independents to present signatures on nominating petitions equal to a specified percentage of the vote at the last general election Illinois “stands alone.” In fact, according to the court, while Illinois requires that independents gather signatures equaling 10 percent of the vote in the last general election, in none of the other states did the requirement exceed 5 percent.

The appeals court overturned a decision by U.S. District Judge Jeanne E. Scott of Springfield who threw out a lawsuit by would-be state Senate candidate David Lee of Heyworth challenging the state’s ballot-access law.

Lee had wanted to run for the Senate in the 44th legislative district in 2004 but believed that he would never have been able to get enough signatures on his nominating petitions under state ballot-access laws.

Instead, Lee filed suit against the State Board of Elections, saying the restrictions were so tough they violated his constitutional rights.

Topics USA Illinois

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