The Unannounced Election
Cook County voters in the March 20th primary election are going to see something unusual on their ballots: an election with no candidates, just a blank ballot line and the option to cast a write-in vote.
It will likely take most people by surprise, since the Cook County Clerk's office, the election authority for county-wide races in Cook County, has issued no public statements, voter notices, press releases, or other information regarding the ballot line.
Established political parties received notification of a special write-in-only primary via their central committees, less than a week before the filing deadline for write-in candidates and less than a month before the start of early voting. Other than that legally-mandated notification, the Clerk's office has been silent on the subject.
So, What's the Secret Election For?
The write-in-only ballot line is for a seat on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) Board of Commissioners, the nine-member elected body that oversees Cook County's billion-dollar, taxpayer-funded wastewater treatment and flood abatement agency.
For more than twenty years, the MWRD Board of Commissioners has been an all-Democrat body, and a functional rubber-stamp on all private contracts put before the Board for approval.
Termed the "Unexpired 2-Year Term (Vacancy of Bradford)" on March 20th primary ballots, the write-in-only primary will determine which candidates are listed on the general election ballots in November for an open seat on the MWRD Board of Commissioners, left vacant by the December 2017 death of sitting Commissioner Timothy Bradford.
When news broke this week that Arthur Jones, a 70-year-old self-avowed Nazi and Holocaust denier, would be the unopposed Republican candidate in Illinois' 3rd Congressional district, the reaction in most quarters was to blame the Republican Party—either for allowing an environment in which Nazis can flourish, or just for being asleep at the wheel on the 3rd Congressional primary, depending on the editorial slant.
What's missing from most coverage is the thoroughly rigged ballot access system that allowed Jones to sneak onto the ballot.
Jones, pictured above, is unopposed in the Republican Primary for Illinois' 3rd Congressional District.
Out-of-state commentators (and even some from in-state) may not realize it, but Illinois election law is designed to encourage and enforce a two-party system. Candidates in Illinois must submit petitions signed by residents of their district to be listed on the ballot, gathered within a 90-day window, and the number of signatures required is based on partisan affiliation.
In simple terms: getting your name on the ballot as a candidate in Illinois gets easier or harder depending on your political party.
In Congressional races, like Jones's, candidates of "established parties"—Democrats and Republicans, with a few hard-won exceptions—only need to submit signatures equal to one-half of one percent of their party's total votes from that district in the previous election.
Independent candidates or candidates of "new parties"—which means any party that did not earn at least 5% of the vote in that district in the previous election, regardless of how long it's been around or how many candidates it has in office statewide—must submit signatures equal to five percent of the total vote from the previous election.
The discrepancies border on the absurd. In the case of the 3rd Congressional race, Arthur Jones needed 603 signatures to become a ballot-listed Republican candidate. Despite his odious politics, he was clearly able to do so (demonstrating along the way either that there are over 600 Nazis in the 3rd Congressional, or that petition signatures are a largely meaningless demonstration of "support" within the district). A member in good standing of the Green Party, Libertarian Party, or any other non-Democrat/Republican party, on the other hand, would need to gather 14,559 signatures to represent their party on the ballot in that same race.Read more
The Illinois Green Party is proud to support its candidates for local office -- and right now, the Cook County Green Party is running a hard-hitting, issues-focused campaign against Chicago's famously corrupt sanitary district Board of Commissioners.
Chicago is famous for its "machine" system: elected or appointed officials control massive, taxpayer-funded administrations full of jobs and contracts, which are handed out to keep supporters loyal come election time. Whether those jobs and contracts actually benefit the taxpayers, or address critical civic issues...that's not really the machine's concern.
Strong, activist, community-centered candidates like ours are a genuine threat to "business as usual" in Chicago. We know the political machine is going to throw everything it's got at our Greens for MWRD campaign.
That's why, from now through November 27th, the Illinois Green Party has pledged any new donations to the MWRD campaign. Can you help out with a $10, $25, $50, or $100 donation to support the campaign?
Funds will pay for the critical ballot access process, which is a set of strict legal and petitioning requirements that establishment parties use to keep independents and outsider challengers off the ballot.
It's a lot of work on a tight deadline -- and your support will help ensure that voters in Cook County have an option on their ballot that isn't the long-standing Democratic Party establishment.
Illinois Green Party
P.S. Want to help out, but can't make a donation? Volunteer with the MWRD campaign instead!