Greens Slam "Protect Incumbents Act", Repeat Call For Election Reform
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Thursday, April 2, 2009
Illinois Green Party
Illinois Green Party Chair
Illinois Green Party Media Coordinator
A legislative effort to all but end the practice of "slating" in Illinois has drawn the ire of Green Party leaders. House Bill 723 would make it so that when no candidate of an established party runs in a primary for a particular office, that party can only fill the vacancy in nomination if the candidate they "slate" collects a large number of signatures.
"The system in Illinois is already rigged to drastically limit competition," said Phil Huckelberry, Illinois Green Party Chair. "Voters are sick of uncontested elections and having no choice at the ballot, and yet some legislators are trying to make the situation worse, not better. This bill may as well be called the 'Protect Incumbents Act'."
The main sponsor of the bill, Rep. Mike Fortner (R-95), would have been uncontested in 2008 had the Green Party not slated Gerard Schmitt to run for the office. John D'Amico (D-15), a co-sponsor, was uncontested in 2008 only because a slated Green candidate was removed from the ballot. Randy Ramey (R-55), another co-sponsor, also faced a slated Green candidate, Dan Kairis, in 2008. Joseph Lyons (D-19), another co-sponsor, was uncontested in 2008.
"Legislators in Illinois have an aversion to having someone run against them," said Kairis, who is now running for Township Supervisor in Elgin Township. "Rather than accept competitive elections as a necessary function of a democratic system, here we have legislators who want to avoid facing any competition in the future."
The signature threshold for slated candidates would be equal to the threshold for new party or independent candidates for offices. For many state representative seats, the number will exceed 2,000 signatures in 90 days, which is extremely difficult, especially when districts have been drawn irregularly. The practice of drawing legislative districts to protect incumbents regardless of their party affiliation is known as "sweetheart gerrymandering." Three bills have been introduced that would seek to amend the Illinois Constitution to change the method of redistricting to using computer software. Currently redistricting is handled by a partisan committee.
"Computer redistricting is precisely the kind of election reform we sorely need in Illinois," said Tim Quirk, 44th Ward Committeeperson in Chicago. "If we're not going to get reform now, when is it going to happen?"
Other election reforms that Greens have argued for include campaign contribution limits, bans on corporate contributions, public financing of campaigns, and lowering of ballot signature requirements.
"The need for fair elections in Illinois is obvious to everyone," said Huckelberry. "For years, the legislature has intentionally made elections unfair to protect themselves. But voters are angrier now after so many scandals. It's time for real change."
- 30 -