Greens Condemn Approval Of "Protect Incumbents Act", Urge Quinn To Veto
Illinois Green Party
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, May 29, 2009
Phil Huckelberry, Illinois Green Party Chair, 309-268-9974, firstname.lastname@example.org
Patrick Kelly, Illinois Green Party Media Coordinator, 773-203-9631, email@example.com
Greens are calling on Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn to veto House Bill 723, a bill which is expected to substantially reduce the number of candidates for General Assembly and increase the number of uncontested races by adding hurdles to the post-primary slating process.
Slating is the ability of party leaders to choose a candidate for office when no candidate runs in that party’s primary. HB723, if signed, would add the requirement that a slated candidate would need to collect a number of signatures from voters. For General Assembly, this number is flat – 500 for House and 1000 for Senate – and is often very difficult to achieve for minority parties within a district. In addition, unlike the 90 day period in advance of a primary, the post-slating collection period is no more than 75 days – and those days are mostly in the poor weather months of February and March. The effective result of the bill will be to eliminate competition in several General Assembly races.
"This bill is just the latest example of widespread above-the-board corruption to come out of Springfield," said Phil Huckelberry, Illinois Green Party Chair. "Democratic and Republican legislators found something they could agree on: protecting their own jobs."
Unopposed races are already very frequent in Illinois. In November 2008, 59 of 118 House races and 20 of 40 Senate races were completely unopposed. Without slated candidates, an additional 24 House and 8 Senate races would have been unopposed. Over the past four election years (2002-2008), 42 Republicans, 29 Democrats, and 15 Greens were slated onto the November ballot for State Representative. In the same time period, 23 Republicans, 11 Democrats, and 2 Greens were slated onto the November ballot for State Senator.
The lack of opposed races directly impacts the high incumbency rate in Illinois. In election years 2004, 2006, and 2008, when a candidate who had won the previous election for a given seat sought reelection, that incumbent won 388 out of 400 times, for an incumbency rate of 97%; and 6 of those 12 defeats were in primaries.
"Many legislators claimed this legislation was needed to balance the scales for incumbents and challengers – as if incumbents need any more help getting elected," said Tom Abram, Green candidate for 103rd Representative in 2006. "But Illinois' corrupt political system is already rigged to heavily favor incumbents. Now they want the rules to be further stacked so that they will not only win, but they won't even have to run against anyone."
When the bill came before the Senate, chief sponsor Terry Link (D-30) falsely claimed the post-slating rules were identical to the primary qualification rules, and he was not challenged on the floor. In addition, during testimony before the Senate Elections Committee, Green Party leaders called out Sen. Link on false claims he made before that body, which resulted in the bill being amended. Sen. Link admitted in committee testimony that the bill was aimed directly at the Green Party, because of Green candidates who had been slated for General Assembly in 2008.
"Terry Link must be really afraid of the Green Party," said AJ Segneri, Illinois Green Party Membership Steward. "That fear must explain his difficulty telling the truth to his fellow senators."
Greens also noted that while the Illinois Reform Commission's recent report did not address ballot access issues directly, it did provide a number of recommendations to deal with incumbency protection issues, such as computerized redistricting to end gerrymandering. Greens take this as a sign that Governor Quinn will listen to calls to veto HB723.
"Pat Quinn has built his reputation as a reformer, but Mike Madigan and John Cullerton have gone out of their way to block reform," said Huckelberry. "Now Quinn has an opportunity to block a corrupt piece of legislation. We hope that he will do the right thing."
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