COMMENTARY: Political New Year’s resolutions for 2020

Illinois political
Illinois State Capitol building in Springfield. (Daniel Schwen/WikiMedia Commons photo)

I wrote a Letter to the Editor which was sent out to roughly a dozen publications over the weekend, but only one took the time to publish it. I feel it was appropriate to share:

As we enter a new year, a new decade and yet another election cycle, the ongoing question from fed-up voters keep ringing in my mind: “Why don’t we have other candidates running for office? These candidates on the ballot are awful!”


It’s an easy and difficult question to answer, so allow me to break the response into two parts:


Easy response: Democrats and Republicans in Springfield set the thresholds for ballot access regarding all partisan political races from statewide all the way down to the township level. The thresholds they set almost 90 years ago have been preferential treatment toward both parties, while they set ridiculous amounts for anyone unaffiliated with the political duopoly to run for office.


Difficult response: The two-party system hates competition and does everything they can to keep new party and independent candidates from getting on the ballot. Depending on the particular political race – and often the county – a new party or independent candidate is forced to collect anywhere from three to 150 times the minimum threshold for Democrats and Republicans. Take, for instance, our statewide races. Democrats and Republicans only have to file a minimum of 5,000 signatures. If you’re a Libertarian, Green, Constitution or other party candidate, or if you’re an independent, you have to collect a minimum of five times that threshold and then submit double that to survive a challenge (usually instigated by the Illinois GOP).


Since 2013, state legislators have introduced legislation creating for an even playing field, regardless of political party, starting with state Sen. Andy Manar with Senate Bill 1624. Former Sen. Kyle McCarter and Rep. Allen Skillicorn introduced companion bills in the previous General Assembly. In this current Assembly, two House bills with the same goal – making the petitioning threshold the same for all political races, regardless of political party – in the form of House Bills 3535 (Stava-Murray/Ammons) and 3828 (Skillicorn/Welter/Carroll) have been brought forth.


It’s overdue time to change yet another outdated election law. Three previous election laws have been struck down in Federal court against former Attorney General Lisa Madigan and with no legislative action, the ballot access petitioning threshold could end up in the courts as well.


Contact your legislators to have them look at the bills and ask for their support.

This isn’t the only thing that’s among my New Year’s political resolutions for 2020. Allow me to go through some of them:

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Keeping the death penalty abolished

Republicans have attempted once again to repeal the abolition of the death penalty. The reasoning for wanting to revive the death penalty is questionable at best, and it’s something that neither Rep. David McSweeney or Rep. Andrew Chesney has been very straightforward about. The justice system itself is flawed and people who have committed murders are still walking free because of incompetent judges, state’s attorneys and misinformed juries, all of which have also contributed to wrongful convictions and on rare occasions, wrongful convictions to Death Row. Only 20 people from 1974 until its abolition in 2011 were exonerated for crimes they didn’t commit.

Given that Republicans haven’t provided enough valid reasoning to overturn the abolition of the death penalty, I’d prefer that it continues to be abolished.

The death of the progressive tax

It doesn’t take much to force over 50,000 people in 2019 alone to leave Illinois, but given the environment in Springfield encouraging continued fiscal irresponsibility and racking up more debt, more taxation adds more fuel to an ongoing problem that enrages overtaxed citizens. Elected officials in both parties want to keep their pork projects and don’t want to make sacrifices to cut spending instead of hiking taxes to beyond unreasonable rates.

Workers in Illinois already pay a flat-rate income tax, which was reasonable for everyone, but even to most people, this level of taxation is too high. Now Democrats and Gov. JB Pritzker want to change things to a progressive tax, where everyone gets screwed at the expense of wealthy politicians and their reckless spending.

There’s no level of taxation that will fix this state’s problems and there never will.

Changing Illinois to become a Ranked Choice Voting state

The current electoral system involving the popular vote is currently broken as the parties of the duopoly are well active in voter suppression, including that of those who vote for third parties and independents. It’s time for some things to change.

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Last year, the Libertarian and Green parties supported the creation of legislation that would allow for elections to be determined via ranked-choice voting. The idea allows for voters to vote for candidates via ranked-choice, e.g. putting a 1 next to your candidate of choice, with subsequent numbers going toward other candidates. It’s not that much different than the way candidates are elected at national conventions or how the voters who determine the inductees of every single sporting hall of fame.

Repealing the taxes which goes into effect in 2020

None of the taxes going into effect on January 1 should even have to exist. I fully intend to fight until every single new tax implemented in the past five years through 2020 are repealed.

Repealing laws which have gone into effect over the past decade

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how many stupid laws were forced into effect in this decade. I’ll strive in this upcoming decade toward repealing as many of them as possible, especially those who promotes extravagant levels of revenue piracy by the government and that of law enforcement.

Enacting term limits

This is a rallying cry among many Illinoisans. There should be term limits on how long one should serve in office. Michael Madigan has been in the Illinois House for over four decades. Jim Durkin and Jim Oberweis have been in office well over two decades. It’s time for hard limits to be set, much like they do in Missouri. No one should be allowed to be in the Illinois House for longer than a decade and no more than eight years in the Illinois Senate. Set a two-term limit for all state constitutional officers.

No more political pension multi-dipping……even better, no more political pensions

You are not entitled to a political pension as a public servant serving in a partisan political office. We have a serious problem with people getting a pension while serving in a public service role, later running for a higher office and tapping into another pension plan as a higher elected official. Meanwhile, they contribute further to our state’s severe financial quagmire and bleed our taxpayer dry. Get rid of political pensions and cut off payments to retired politicians.

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Jake Leonard, a broadcast media and journalism veteran, is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. Leonard is also GM and program director of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network and a contributing writer for My Sports Vote, Ambush Sports and Midwest Sports Network. He resides at home in Nokomis, Ill. with his dogs Sparky and Buster.