Rhodes: Change the Balloting Rules

Arcane rules are absurd

By Steve Rhodes
|  Thursday, Nov 12, 2009  |  Updated 2:12 PM CDT
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Rhodes: Change the Balloting Rules

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The rules governing Illinois elections need to change.

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It will be up to the lawyers now to determine whether state Rep. Deb Mell stays on the ballot despite not using her current address on nominating petitions.

But should it be?

If she violated the rules, she violated the rules. Daddy Mell has gotten candidates kicked off ballots for years; even Barack Obama
used petition challenges to knock off his opponents in his first run for state senate.

But is this really any way to run an election?

Sure, petitions shouldn't be fraudulent, but the arcane rules that knock candidates out of races really seem designed to protect incumbents with staffers and lawyers at the ready and the wealthy challengers who can afford to play the perverted game.

What about the little guy?

This year's poster case is that of Andrea Raila, the independent Cook County Assessor candidate who dropped out rather than fight a challenge from the chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party. Raila needed 8,147 signatures to get on the ballot. She turned in more than 12,000. But candidates generally need at least twice as many signatures - if not more - to survive a rigorous challenge because so many names turn out to be invalid.

That's not to excuse invalid signatures, but to point out how hard it can be for independents and/or challengers to meet the requirements necessary to mount a run. And that's before paying a lawyer to defend your petitions.

And when a candidacy can depend on whether your petitions are "properly bound," to name one rule, something's not right.

I don't like Deb Mell. I'm not here to defend her. And the rules shouldn't be changed for her. Maybe she used an old address for some devious reason. But maybe in the future we shouldn't kick someone out of a race for public office if they honestly make that sort of mistake.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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