The Illinois Green Party and Libertarian Party have jointly filed suit in US District Court, requesting that the petition signature requirement for the statewide ballot be waived or suspended for the current election cycle due to the COVID public health crisis.
Read the full complaint here.
ILLINOIS GREEN PARTY
PETITION DRIVE BEGINS TODAY
But Greens Demand Emergency Relief Due to Coronavirus Pandemic
Wheaton, Illinois (March 24, 2020). The Illinois Green Party (ILGP) has placed its presidential candidate on the statewide election ballot in every presidential year since 2008, with over 117,000 Illinois voters choosing Green Party Senate candidate Scott Summers in 2016. Yet oppressive ballot access laws in Illinois -- among the worst in the nation -- repeatedly force the Greens to collect tens of thousands of petition signatures from registered voters in each election cycle just to get their candidates’ names on the ballot.
For the statewide general election ballot, these laws require Green petitioners to gather 25,000 petition signatures from registered voters – and to collect those signatures in just 90 days (March 24th through June 22nd). In practice, this requires petitioners to collect over 50,000 signatures, in order to safely survive legal challenges. Democratic and Republican presidential candidates only needed 3,000 signatures, with petitioning taking place last Fall.
Even under normal conditions, such a petition drive requires Herculean effort. Now, however, due to restrictions on public gatherings, “social distancing,” stay-at-home requirements and other essential public health measures, normal petitioning has been rendered impossible. The ILGP plans to follow best practices during the COVID-19 public health crisis and will adhere to governmental restrictions.
“Even where public encounters still occur, we cannot ask petitioners to risk their health by approaching strangers to get their signature, nor can we ask people to come within close physical proximity of our petitioners,” said ILGP co-chair Rich Whitney. “We strongly support emergency public-health measures. Defeating the pandemic is priority number one. But these measures also make the petitioning requirements of the Election Code even more patently unfair than they already were. Even the ridiculous requirement that circulators must have each of the 5,000 petition sheets notarized now poses highly problematic health risks.”
Accordingly, last week, the ILGP sent letters to Governor Pritzker, legislative leaders, and the State Board of Elections requesting that the petitioning requirement be waived or suspended for the current election cycle for ILGP candidates, due to the current public health crisis. As of this writing, the Governor has not responded to the letter.
Without such relief, the ILGP is forced to start the petitioning process today, but under conditions that virtually limit “petitioning” to members of the same household. Illinois law does not provide for on-line petitioning or any substitute for voters signing a hard-copy petition that is handed to them by a petitioner.
The Illinois Green Party is a political party that stands for economic, social, racial, environmental, and democratic justice for all of the people of Illinois. Neither the Green Party or their candidates for political office accept corporate contributions. For more information, please visit www.ilgp.org.
Dear Governor Pritzker, President Harmon, Speaker Madigan, and Director Sandvoss,
For months, the Green Party has been preparing for the start of the petitioning period applicable to “new” political parties, which begins on March 24, 2020, and ends on June 22, 2020. The Illinois Green Party has held its nominating convention and has nominated Green Party candidates for the 2020 Illinois statewide ballot. (Under the Election Code, the Green Party was not eligible to participate in the state's Primary Election this year for statewide offices.)
The Green Party has successfully completed Illinois statewide petition drives in the recent past (including 2012 and 2016), and we are confident that, without the recent turn of events involving COVID-19, we would have successfully completed the petition drive this year as well.
According to current state law, a new political party must file 25,000 valid petition signatures to get ballot access for this year's Illinois statewide General Election ballot. Experience teaches us (and other electoral candidates) that it is wise to gather twice the number of required signatures, in order to account for problems with voter registrations. Given past response rates, this would translate into well over half a million public contacts.
However, because of the COVID-19 outbreak and the Governor's responsive Executive Orders, as well as the national state of emergency, local restrictions, and related health-care protocols regarding social distancing, the Green Party's ability to obtain the necessary signatures here in Illinois this year has been essentially nullified. We acknowledge that the actions taken to limit gatherings and ensure social distancing are appropriate for containing and controlling the virus, but they also make it literally impossible for the candidates of minority political parties, as well as independent candidates, to be placed on the general election ballot.
Current circumstances make petitioning extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, for the party and its candidates, as well as make it risky, health-wise, for the petitioners and the potential signers.
Any efforts at gathering enough signatures for the statewide ballot depend on face-to-face contact with as many potential petition signers as possible, and large crowds—now banned by law—normally provide the primary source for signers. Even where registered voters may be found in smaller gatherings, or may be passing by on a sidewalk, current health-care protocols advising that a distance of at least six feet be maintained between unfamiliar persons make petitioning all but impossible.
Moreover, few people remaining in the security of their homes are likely to open their doors to petitioners in this environment, let alone agree to have a close conversation and handle a clipboard and pen being handed to them by a stranger. Likewise, most prospective petitioners, including the many volunteers who have assisted us in the past, are understandably going to be reluctant to handle a clipboard and pen that has passed through the hands, and within close proximity of the nose and mouth, of large numbers of unknown persons.
Accordingly, we respectfully request that the Governor, General Assembly, and the Board of Elections take account of these radically changed circumstances and take immediate emergency action to honor the right of our political party and its candidates for President, Vice President, and U.S. Senate to appear on the general election ballot.
We ask that the petition signature requirement for the statewide ballot be waived or suspended for the current election cycle for the Illinois Green Party’s statewide candidates. We understand that the Libertarian Party of Illinois may be making a similar request and we would be supportive of that party being granted a waiver as well.
We would also ask for similar relief for Green Party candidates planning to petition to attain ballot status in county-level races in Jackson County, Illinois.
We can be contacted expeditiously at email@example.com. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
Co-Chairs, Illinois Green Party