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.
The end result? Opportunists like Jones can easily hop on a Democrat or Republican ballot line by going to a low-turnout district—and with gerrymandered districts designed to stay “safe” for one of the two major parties or the other, more of Illinois’ districts than not will have an extremely low turnout in either the Democrat or Republican column.
Meanwhile, genuine candidates of alternative parties stay locked off the ballot with near-impossible signature requirements. Keeping in mind the 90-day window, candidates from outside the two-party system need to be gathering anywhere from 120 to over 200 signatures every day during their ballot access period to appear on a Congressional district ballot—while Democrats and Republicans stroll to the polls at a leisurely rate of some two to 16 per day.
Small wonder Arthur Jones chose to run as a Republican. The system practically invites it.
Angered by ballot access laws in Illinois? Want to see equal ballot access requirements for all candidates? Donate to support the Illinois Green Party’s court filing challenging the “new party” signature rules!