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COMMENTARY: Voter choice and candidate suppression needs to become a criminal offense - Heartland Newsfeed

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(Heartland Newsfeed) — Illinois is unfortunately known for political corruption and the suppression of voter and candidate choice. It’s been a common and deceptive practice that has been going on for decades.

2018, unfortunately, is no different.

Whitney Hayward/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

As of several hours ago, a warning was given by the Libertarian Party of Illinois that the Illinois Republican Party is up their usual tricks again trying to throw the party slate off the general election ticket.

PUTTING THE WORD OUT: Republicans are calling people at their homes who signed our petitions, most likely in an effort to convince them something is wrong and they should sign affidavits against our petitions. Check with your friends and families who signed to see if they get contacted”—Brian Scott Lambrecht#GoldRush2018 Campaign Manager

That’s right — the goons connected to Bruce Rauner and the Illinois GOP are deadset on suppressing voter choice and better-principled candidates. And not just for Rauner’s seat — state and Federal legislative races as well.

One of the Illinois GOP’s goon squad, general counsel John Fogarty, is at the helm of trying to prevent Illinois voters from having a choice compared to two shiny turds with billions of dollars at their disposal and brains smaller than a squirrel.

So the GOP is saying voters made a mistake signing the petition and are harassing people into signing affidavits against the petitions.

This is not the first time Republicans have made desperate acts against alternative candidates.

The Chicago Sun-Times’ Dan Mihalopouls wrote an article in 2014 regarding armed thugs harassing voters regarding the same petitions they signed for the 2014 slate. A portion of this article:

A couple of months after Julieus Hooks signed [the Libertarian Party’s] nominating petitions, a man with a gun walked up to Hooks as he left his home in Oak Park.

The man said he was a private investigator. He told Hooks the petition that he had signed was fraudulent and asked him to sign something. Hooks hastily agreed to sign the paper.

“I did not have time to fully review this document because the man with the gun instructed me to sign it, and I was afraid of him and what he may do to me if I refused,” Hooks says….

Hooks had signed a petition for the Libertarians in May. He recanted his story in the affidavit that the man with the gun got him to sign. But then Hooks swore a second affidavit saying he did not mean what he said in the affidavit for the armed man.

According to the most recent version of his story, Hooks said, “On or about July 20, 2014, I was exiting my house when a tall Caucasian man and a woman approached and startled me. The man had a gun, which was visible. They told me that the woman who had circulated the petition sheet that I had signed had violated the law because she had obtained too many signatures and committed fraud. I was then given a piece of paper and told to sign.”

Sarah Dart, who was paid to circulate petitions for the Libertarians and obtained Hooks’ signature, told me a similar story. Dart says a private investigator named Carlos Rodriguez contacted her, asking about a missing girl who knew someone she supposedly knew.

She believes the story about the missing girl was a ruse. When she met with Rodriguez, Dart says he confronted her with a stack of petitions and asked her to admit that the signatures for the Libertarians were obtained fraudulently. She refused, and the state’s hearing officer later found that her signatures were legitimately gathered.

Dart says Rodriguez displayed a holstered gun when he met her. He gave her a business card showing he works for Morrison Security in Alsip. The company’s owner is the Palos Township Republican leader, Sean Morrison.

The article also adds that Rauner’s campaign spokesman “knew nothing” about the strong-armed tactics being utilized by his allies in an effort that ultimately failed, allowing the Libertarian slate to appear in the 2014 general election ballot.

While criminal complaints were filed by the Libertarian Party of Illinois to Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the Cook County state’s attorney, it is highly apparent no action was ever taken on the matter.

The ordeal in 2014 caught the attention of Reason Magazine editor-at-large Nick Gillespie, which was featured on the website’s Hit & Run Blog. (“Did Armed GOP Thugs Try to Keep Libertarian Party off Illinois Ballot?“, Aug. 29, 2014)

And to think they’re up their usual tactics again.

Even the Illinois State Board of Elections (ISBE) are privy and liable for voter choice and candidate suppression.

The primary representative for ISBE, Matt Dietrich, said in an interview with WCIA‘s Mark Maxwell that the current election laws — which are incredibly biased against alternative candidates: 25,000+ petition signatures compared to the 5,000 that Democratic and Republican candidates get to file to statewide office — “keep the general election from having 15 candidates on the ballot.”

Those were his words, not mine. Don’t believe me? Watch the clip:

For one, have we EVER had a general election for statewide office in my lifetime where the ballot for any statewide constitutional office had 15 names on the ballot? NOT ONCE. So Dietrich’s remark is both ill-informed and ignorant.

What is so wrong about having some REAL choice on the ballot for once? Voter turnout is at an all-time low and even despite automatic voter registration going into effect today, that trend is not going to change.

With limitations on voter and candidate choice on the ballot, voters will continue to become disenfranchised with the two major parties, much like the trend from the last six major election cycles. Illinois has nearly 50 percent of voters who identify as independent or non-partisan for this exact reason. While I may be a card-carrying Libertarian, I am registered as unaffiliated.

There are more than enough reasons why we featured the guest editorials from the Northwest Herald and Belleville News-Democrat editorial boards. In an election cycle where alternative candidates like Grayson “Kash” Jackson are getting more press compared to the 2014 cycle, it is past due for the media, namely the Illinois Press Association and the Illinois Newspaper Association, to take notice and expose the corruption surrounding the suppression of voter choice.

The Northwest Herald said it best in their editorial headline: more candidates plus more choices equals more voters. That is what is desperately needed in the November 6 general election: more choice on the ballot that isn’t Bruce Rauner or JB Pritzker.

BND had some good points in their editorial, but the following hits home to anyone who wants to expose and denounce our ridiculous election laws: “Maybe voter suppression isn’t our problem. Maybe it’s candidate suppression.”

Monday is the deadline for petition challenges, but the biggest fight comes afterwards as filing candidates return to Springfield for hearings to defend their signatures in order to survive and earn ballot access.


Thus comes my talking point: Why is this practice legal? Shouldn’t people engaging in these activities like Fogarty and Dietrich, the Illinois Republican Party and the paid armed thugs from the 2014 incident be disbarred and imprisoned for interfering with the election process? For preventing voters from having a legitimate choice compared to two choices who are driving voters to the point of not voting? For tainting the democratic process of electing new leaders by limiting party and candidate choice? By preventing 25 of 26 counties eligible for a Libertarian Party primary to hold a primary election for countywide offices due to the high voter support for former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson in 2016?

Do you think lawyers should be disbarred for interfering in the process? Do you think election officials should be fired for doing the same? Should they face prison time in a Federal penitentiary for their crimes? I want to hear your opinion on Facebook.

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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