As Richard Winger reported July 2 on Ballot Access News, the presidential petitions in Illinois for the Justice, Socialist, and Constitution parties, as well as the “Together Enhancing America” petition for candidate Michael Hawkins, were all challenged as insufficient.
This is significant because in Illinois, parties or candidates that petition to appear on the presidential ballot will appear as long as their petitions are not challenged and found to be inadequate. All parties challenged here appear to not meet the state’s ballot access requirements.
The challenge was made by Cook County Green Party chairman Rob Sherman. He sent the following message to explain his decision:
I’ve read every word of every Illinois Green Party post during the past three days, plus many direct e-mails from concerned political party members from around the country. Here’s my perspective on the controversies regarding my challenges to presidential candidates, in which one set of candidates that submitted one signature (just 24,999 short), one set of candidates that submitted two signatures (24,998 short), one set of candidates who submitted about 250 signatures (just 24,750 short) and one candidate for president who submitted one signature and didn’t even list a Vice Presidential candidate. The Illinois Green Party, on the other hand, submitted over 30,000 signatures, collected by hundreds of volunteers and supported by thousands of dollars in donations to cover volunteers’ expenses and the expense of the operation.
Of course, I welcome your comments.
If you want to have volunteers, donors and paid staff willing to contribute the next time, you absolutely cannot disrespect their efforts by telling them that they just wasted ALL of their time and money, because candidates could have gotten on the ballot without doing ANY of the things that our people did. You won’t have volunteers and donors, the next time, if you do that.
Part of my job as Cook County Green Party Chairman is to think ahead about the matter of volunteers and donations in future years. I need to make sure that we don’t destroy our ability to generate volunteers and donors in future years, by telling our contributors that they were just throwing their time and money away because candidates can just as easily get on the ballot with none of that work or money.
Our donors and volunteers wouldn’t publicly complain if I dropped my objections, but I doubt that they would be back to do it, all over again, the next time, if they thought that they were completely wasting their efforts. I’m not going to just throw away all of their efforts and walk away from all of their hard work, by telling the challenged candidates that they can have the same ballot benefits as us, without putting forth any of the effort, time or money that we did.
Unless you have been out there, collecting nominating petition signatures (as I did when I ran for State Rep in 2006 and 2008 and for Village Clerk in 2010), you have no idea how incredibly taxing it is on the legs and feet, and how challenging it is to be out there in all kinds of weather, such as day after day of 90+ degree heat this year, and frigid conditions with frequent blowing snow when I was out there in previous years. After all of that intense physical suffering by so many, you want me to do what?
The Dems and Repubs didn’t challenge any presidential Third Partiers because they want the Third Party voters divided as widely as possible. As Andy wrote at noon on Tuesday, if Third Party votes are divided among many candidates, all Third Party presidential candidates would appear to be weak and inconsequential since none would be generating a respectable percentage of the vote.
That’s exactly what the Dems and Repubs want, but that’s exactly the opposite of what we need. We want to demonstrate that we are a strong and credible political force that is rapidly moving in the direction of overthrowing the government at the ballot box. That’s why the Dems and Repubs didn’t challenge anybody but I did.
Indeed, Dems and Repubs have a long-standing political trick for protecting lousy incumbents. If somebody is going to run against the incumbent, the D’s and R’s make sure that lots of names appear on the ballot. Opposition totals are so fragmented amongst the many opponents that the lousy incumbent can retain office with much less than 50% of the vote. It’s a trick.
Jessica, at 11:09 p.m. on Tuesday, wrote, “I don’t see the harm of having more options on the ballot.” I disagree. We don’t have to be suckers and affirm the “split up / divide the opposition” trick to our detriment. We should be doing everything we can to ensure that this trick doesn’t work against us. It doesn’t matter whether the D’s and/or R’s are behind such a trick, this time. The effect is the same. My challenges are necessary to negate the effect of that type of situation from prospective candidates who have not done anything to earn their way onto the ballot.
Audrey, who if you didn’t know is co-chair of the Green Party of the United States, wrote, in an e-mail at 7:59 a.m. on Tuesday, about the difference between reasonable and repressive ballot access laws. I’m all for ballot access, which is why I have repeatedly gone to Springfield at my own expense (have any of you?) to testify before legislative Election Law committees in support of lowering the number of signatures required, and in support of making signature requirements level for all candidates, as Patrick suggested in his e-mail at 11:29 a.m. on Tuesday. For that reason, I wouldn’t have challenged anybody trying to get on the presidential ballot with 3,000 valid signatures, because if that’s the standard for D’s and R’s, it should be the standard for everybody.
Walter indicated, in an e-mail at 4:09 a.m. on Tuesday, that we might get “hammered in the media for challenging these petitions” and that “This is going to completely destroy our credibility if Rob doesn’t withdraw his objections.” I disagree. This is called “blaming the victim.” We aren’t the ones that sought ballot access with a preposterously small number of signatures. They are. It is them who are going to get hammered in the media for doing the wrong thing, not us for doing the right thing. The challenged candidates ought to be apologizing to us for their misconduct, rather than us apologizing to them for objecting to their gross misconduct.
Walter reversed his position in an e-mail at 1:14 p.m. on Tuesday, saying “We should be prepared with well reasoned arguments.” Nancy agreed with that sentiment at 1:28 p.m. on Tuesday. That’s what this e-mail is all about.
Audrey also wrote, at 9:07 a.m. on Tuesday, to express concern about the effect that my challenges would have on ballot access cases in other states. Not to worry. There’s a big difference between file one, or two hundred, signatures, and a law that requires 85,000 signatures. For that reason, my challenges will help, not hurt, those cases, because I have a long established history of advocating for reasonable ballot access. Neither one signature nor 85,000 are reasonable for statewide elections. Somewhere between 1,000 to 3,000 is reasonable. Audrey seemed to agree in her e-mail at 9:14 p.m. on Wednesday, when she said, “I don’t see how the preservation of petitions demonstrating the support of exactly one voter will persuade the court that minor parties have demonstrated a modicum of support elsewhere in the U.S.”
Rich wrote, at 10:51 a.m. on Tuesday, that he has “a problem with our party attacking the interests of another pro-labor party.” Rich has it backwards. It is those other parties that are attacking us by running candidates against our candidates. We are trying to win an election, but they are attacking us by running candidates against our people. If they were truly our friends, they wouldn’t be supporting opponents to run against the Green Party. It is them who should be apologizing to us, not the other way around.
In that same e-mail, Rich wrote, “I know nothing about Michael Hawkins.” Here’s all you need to know about him: He called me on the phone, Tuesday evening, to complain, bitterly, about my challenge to his papers. He became increasingly agitated. He insisted that we meet in person. I told him that I would be glad to meet him at the offices of the State Board of Elections when my challenge is heard by them. He said, “No.” He then told me that I was “destroying his dream,” that he wanted to “meet with me tonight,” that “he knew where I lived from the papers that I filed” and that he was “on his way over to my house, immediately, to settle this matter right now.” I immediately invoked the “disaster plan” that I have had on standby with the Buffalo Grove Police Department for many years because I am a prominent public figure. I quickly got my wife and daughter out of the way for their safety. The matter with Hawkins is now resolved and the threat is passed. Thank you, again, BGPD, for being ready. As Andy wrote in an e-mail at noon on Tuesday, “Michael Hawkins is a nut job.”
It was shortly after that incident that I started reading all of your e-mails about how I should drop my challenges to Hawkins and the others. I am literally risking my life, and the lives of the members of my family, to stand up for the Green Party. I’m not going to withdraw any of my challenges, as Phil urged in an e-mail at 11:06 p.m. on Tuesday, when we worked so hard to follow the rules, and continue to risk so much, while they don’t bother to put forth any serious effort at all.
In that same e-mail, Rich expressed concern about harming “strategic alliances with other parties.” They chose to run candidates against us without getting nominating petition signatures. It is them who should be concerned about harming their relationships with us, not us concerned about harming our relationships with them.
Gary, who is a member of the Coalition for Free and Open Elections, wrote, at 4:01 p.m. on Tuesday, that “Every party on the ballot is a step toward electoral freedom.” No! Every candidate on the ballot who hasn’t earned his way onto the ballot waters down the Third Party vote, which has the exact opposite effect on electoral freedom by preserving the two corporate parties.
Audrey, Sheldon and Rita “get it” with regards to why I filed my challenges. At 6:19 a.m. on Wednesday, Audrey wrote: If the “Socialist and Justice Party candidates dilute the Green Party vote in November … why would it be in ILGP’s interest to accede to their frivolous petitions?” Sheldon wrote, at 8:31 a.m. on Wednesday, “We will lose votes if there are 8 candidates on the ballot.” At 10:07 a.m. on Wednesday, Rita wrote, the “purpose of the objection process … is to remove non-serious … candidates. We need to advocate for more equitable ballot access while not abdicating our responsibility as watchdogs to prevent abuse of ballot access loopholes that can cripple our good-faith efforts.” Precisely!
This isn’t about being friends with other progressives. This is about changing our society for the better by getting progressives, namely our people, elected. That won’t happen through weakness achieved through allowing undeserving candidates to dilute our vote totals.
I became Cook County Chairman for the specific purpose of taking the Green Party to the Big Leagues and having our candidates actually win elections, not merely engage in feel-good rhetoric about, gosh, wouldn’t it be nice if only we were in office? I’m playing to win.
Phil wrote, at 12:38 p.m. on Wednesday, that my challenge could have the effect of “Destroying the relationship we have” with the Constitution Party. I disagree. It is the Constitution Party that should be worried about destroying their relationship with us for using a severely deficient set of nominating papers in an effort to take votes away from our candidate.
All of the challenged candidates can still get on the ballot via Write-In. Having your name pre-printed on the ballot implies that you got at least 25,000 signature on nominating petitions, that you complied with all of the other election laws AND that you have a sufficiently broad base of support in Illinois that merits voters using their time to do research about the listed candidates.
That last one is a very important factor. Voters have a limited amount of time to do candidate research. It’s not fair to trick voters into spending their time doing research on a candidate by falsely implying, by being pre-printed on the ballot, that they have amassed a broad base of support in Illinois for their candidacy when they actually haven’t.
IT WOULD BE A FRAUD AGAINST THE TIME OF THE VOTERS FOR CANDIDATES TO FALSELY IMPLY THAT THEY HAVE A BROAD BASE OF SUPPORT, BY PRE-PRINTING THOSE CANDIDATES’ NAMES ON THE BALLOT WHEN, IF FACT, THOSE CANDIDATES HAVE NO SUCH SUPPORT. So, what I’m doing through my challenge is protecting voters from having their time wasted by candidates who falsely claim that their campaign platform and character have generated sufficiently wide public supported to merit being pre-printed on the ballot.
Withdrawing would imply that my actions were impulsive, not well thought out and shift with the wind. As you can see by the above commentary, that definitely is not the case. I carefully considered the matters that I discussed, above, before making the decision to file objections.
The candidates whom I challenged are welcome to contact me and try to explain to me email@example.com or (847) 870-0700 why they should be on the ballot. In particular, what I want to know from them is: What should I, the Cook County Green Party Chairman, tell the volunteers who worked thousands of hours in scorching hot weather and walked thousands of miles, collectively, as to why I should withdraw my challenges and allow these other candidates to get on the ballot with one or two or, in one case, about 250, signatures? What should I tell the donors who collectively contributed thousands of dollars, as to why these other candidates should waltz onto the ballot without doing anything?
The ballot is open to anybody. We organized, did the work and raised the money, so we’re on the ballot. They didn’t so they’re not going to be.
Finally, leadership is about doing what’s right and convincing others to follow you. What Andy and I are doing is right. Now that you know why, I urge you to follow or, at least, respect our decision.
You are all welcome to respond. Use the Illinois Green Party listserve if you are part of that system. Otherwise, feel free to contact me directly.