County clerk: increase ballot access

May 05, 2010

Like Eric Zorn (“Dump the petitions, lower the bar“) I’m in favor of increased ballot access. Should there be some threshold all candidates must meet before their name appears on the ballot? Absolutely. But the current system vastly favors incumbents, party insiders and wealthy candidates. They know how to play the game and use the petition process to their advantage.

Newcomers get bogged down fighting the challenges – “a time-consuming and expensive endeavor” – and often they lose for not knowing the ins and outs. Simply put, the process discourages competition, which is critical for a thriving democracy. Candidates who may have good ideas never get a chance to share their views with voters, who ultimately should make the decision about who represents them.

Challenges also cost taxpayer dollars. Election authorities, like my office, devote considerable resources to signature reviews. It works like this: a member of my staff sits with representatives of the candidate and the objector, and line-by-line they review the challenged signatures. This tedious, costly task only serves to limit voters’ options on Election Day.

But the solution may not be as simple as switching to filing fees. Other states employ some, all, or a combination of filing fees, petition signatures, reviews by election authorities, challenges or no challenges. A perfect process doesn’t exist for us to emulate, but it’s clear our system needs reform.

— David Orr, Cook County Clerk

The Original Link from the Chicago Tribune

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