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Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010 11:37 am

Candidates protest removal from election ballot

Access rules compared to Jim Crow laws

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Willie Boyd Jr.
Michael White
Two little-known political candidates in the coming general election are taking Illinois’ ballot access rules to court, comparing them to the segregationist Jim Crow laws of the nation’s past.

Willie Boyd Jr. of Greenville, an independent candidate running for U.S. Senate, and Michael White of Lindenhurst, a Constitution Party candidate running for governor, have filed paperwork with the Sangamon County Circuit Court, Fourth District Appellate Court, Illinois Supreme Court and the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, asking each court to review the cause of their removal from the ballot for the Nov. 2 statewide general election. The pair questions the state’s practice of removing candidates from the ballot through signature challenges.

Illinois’ Election Code requires independent and non-established party candidates to gather 25,000 signatures from registered voters to gain ballot access and allows anyone to challenge the validity of a candidate’s signatures. Established party candidates must gather 5,000 signatures to appear on the ballot.

Boyd and White call their removal from the ballot a political move to limit competition for Democrats and Republicans. Boyd filed almost 28,700 signatures with the board in support of his candidacy, while White submitted almost 33,000. All but about 1,300 of Boyd’s signatures were invalidated, while challenges reduced White’s signatures to about 22,000.

Challengers Andrew Heffernan of Stickney and Steve Nekic of Chicago alleged that some of Boyd’s and White’s signatures were not genuine or complete, appeared more than once or did not belong to registered voters at correct addresses. They also claimed that some signatures belonged to voters who voted in the Feb. 2 primary, which challengers say precludes them from petitioning to form a new political party.

“Mr. White and I believe the State Board of Elections should place our name back on the ballot,” Boyd said via e-mail. “We and tens of thousands of Illinois voters have already suffered irreparable harms as we have been forced to pay many fees (and) take legal action – all while being forced to continue our campaigns as write-in candidates.  Less than 40 days before elections, this is not equal and not fair.”

In a complaint filed with the Sangamon County Circuit Court, Boyd and White say running for office is an extension of the right to vote, and candidates should thus receive the same protections from disenfranchisement as voters. They also claim their removal was unconstitutional, citing the first, 14th, 17th and 24th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

“…The states are required to ensure that the enfranchisement(s) are true and proper in each phase of the ballot process, to be absent discriminatory practices or effect the dilution of a politically cohesive minority,” the complaint says.

The pair calls the challenge process “as confederate as an oath by Jim Crow,” referring to laws, passed mostly in the southern United States between the late 1800s and mid-1900s, that mandated separate public and private facilities for white and black citizens. The comparison is based on the differences in ballot access requirements for established and non-established parties, though not on racial grounds.

“The statutes in entirety have been in existence prior to 1943 when Illinois statutes also included one-year residency requirements and other qualifications of the period when voting was a privilege rather than a right,” says an emergency motion the pair recently filed with the U.S. District Court.

White says the Constitution Party fought the challenges to his signatures in a separate case in the Cook County circuit court, raising his current signature count to 24,920 of the 25,000 needed. The Constitution Party continues to fight for the restoration of more signatures, White says. Boyd’s and White’s joint case was dismissed from the Sangamon County circuit court and the state supreme court, but it remains to be seen whether the appellate court will hear the case.

“…We remain focused on the race while working to ensure that elections are not reserved only for the most affluent or the majority,” Boyd says. “We want fair and equal elections. We want to see every ‘qualified’ candidate fairly and equally be given a chance to serve state and country.”

Contact Patrick Yeagle at pyeagle@illinoistimes.com.
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