Ballot access victory for Libertarian Party of Illinois as full-slate requirement declared unconstitutional by Seventh Circuit Court

(Courtesy file photo from 2016, DuPage Libertarians)

CHICAGO (Heartland Newsfeed) — The Libertarian Party of Illinois was handed a victory by the Seventh District of the U.S. Circuit Court Friday, declaring an Illinois elections requirement that third parties must run a full slate of candidates to earn ballot access unconstitutional.

“We have little difficulty concluding that the full-slate requirement severely burdens the First Amendment rights of minor parties, their members, and voters,” Judge Diane Sykes said, writing for the unanimous panel. “As a condition for ballot access, the requirement forces minor parties to find and recruit candidates for races they want nothing to do with.”

Illinois’ Election Code requires new political parties wishing to enter candidates for office in a political subdivision, such as a county or a statewide office, to submit a petition “signed by qualified voters equaling in number not less than 5% of the number of voters who voted at the next preceding regular election,” for that subdivision. In addition, new parties must submit a complete list 134 days prior to the general election, naming a full slate of candidates for offices in the state or county in which it wishes to run.

Established political parties, like the Democratic and Republican parties, are not subject to either rule, as Illinois is the only state in the nation imposing a full-slate requirement.

The Libertarian Party of Illinois challenged the requirement in 2012, arguing that it burdens third parties by forcing them to find candidates for offices that might not be important to them, or for which the party might not have a qualified candidate. Due to many procedural delays, a summary motion was granted in favor of the party and co-plaintiffs Lupe Diaz, Julie Fox and John Kramer by U.S. District Judge Andrea R. Wood in February 2016.

The case before the Seventh District Court was part of the Illinois State Board of Elections‘ continued appeals, contending the full-slate requirement must stay intact, filing an appeal which was heard via oral arguments in February. However, Judge Sykes and the judges were not convinced and agreed with the lower court ruling, declaring the requirement unconstitutional.

“The core of the fundamental right to political association is the right to band together in a political party to advance a policy agenda by electing the party’s members to office. That necessarily includes the party’s right to access the ballot and its candidates’ right to appear on the ballot under the party banner,” Sykes wrote in a 12-page ruling.

The judge continued, “For a minor party and its nominees, Illinois’ full-slate requirement extinguishes those rights unless the party fields candidates in races it may want no part of. This is a severe burden on fundamental constitutional rights, and Illinois hasn’t offered a compelling state interest to justify it.”

“By incentivizing minor parties to manufacture frivolous candidacies as a means to an end, the full-slate requirement actually thwarts the interests Illinois invokes,” Sykes said.

The decision was covered on Rich Miller’s Capitol Fax today and some of the comments were certainly interesting:

Come on Man! – Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 11:07 am: Now maybe we can do away with those silly signature requirements.

Northsider – Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 11:24 am: I’m glad to see this. The ballot belongs to all of us, not just the Democratic and Republican Parties. Any word yet whether the state plans a SCOTUS appeal?

King Louis XVI – Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 11:45 am: Good. This means more candidates and that the established party candidates need to hustle more.

Ahoy! – Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 11:56 am: Excellent news but it needs to be a small step towards larger election reforms. We should not even have government funded partisan primary systems. We should look to California’s model for open primaries which would be the same we elected our municipal governments. We also need equal ballot access and fair maps. Let’s all work toward ending our archaic election system.

RNUG – Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 12:11 pm: You could see this ruling coming. It would be a waste to appeal; they are likely to lose at SCOTUS also.

Jeff Trigg – Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 1:42 pm: Good to see yet another anti-democratic election law bite the dust. The 10% signature requirement for independents running for the General Assembly, the early petition deadline the year before the election for independent candidates, and the primary screen out which made it illegal for someone to vote in the primary if they signed an independent’s petitions have also been ruled to be in violation of the 1st and/or 14th Amendments. There will be more, such as the 5% requirement for independents to run for US House, because the argument the state always uses, political stability, preventing ballot overcrowding, and avoiding voter confusion, is just a bunch of whining that is never backed up in actual fact. As you are about to see with the Democrat’s AG primary, there is an obvious double standard at play, especially concerning cluttered ballots. If there’s more than two candidates on the general election ballot it is cluttered, but if there are 8 candidates on the primary ballot it isn’t a big deal. There are no places in the US where they have a problem with cluttered ballots, and assuming voters get confused with more than two candidates on a ballot is laughable. It is so blatant that even the partisan Rs and Ds on the courts have started to admit the election laws are rigged against competition getting on the ballot. 60% of General Assembly races are typically unopposed, so the cluttered ballot argument is obviously ridiculous. California’s Top Two is only good if you want one party rule. The majority of the democracies around the world use proportional representation with equal ballot access for all, that is a vastly superior system to Top Two.

Johnyy Justice – Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 2:17 pm: Great decision for democracy. While Lisa Madigan has generally been a good AG, she’s been extremely regressive on ballot access. She sent 6 Assistant AGs to the oral argument on this case. Lisa has fought every ballot access case tooth & nail, and fortunately lost this one & others. Since we are electing a new AG, we need one who supports democracy by agreeing to the striking down of regressive ballot access restrictions. Let’s hear from AG candidates on this!

anon2 – Tuesday, Sep 26, 17 @ 7:03 pm: A big victory for ballot access. Congrats to those responsible.

Jake Leonard is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. He is general manager of Heartland Internet Media Networks and an active contributor to four newspapers for Pana News Group. He also serves as chairman of Tri-Counties Libertarian Party and Capital Area Libertarian Party, deputy candidate recruitment director for the Libertarian Party of Illinois and as chairman/co-founder of the Libertarian Party Millennial Caucus.

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