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Pandemic or not, independent candidates deserve chance to get on Illinois ballot

Settle on a deadline quickly for submitting nominating petitions. Elections this fall will be tough enough to pull off.

A poll worker at the Su Nueva Lavanderia polling place in Chicago uses rubber gloves as she enters a ballot in the March 17, 2020, primary.
Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Illinois must get its election deadlines nailed down quickly if the state is to have a smooth voting process this fall, and that means resolving one particular court dispute almost immediately.

On Friday, a lawyer representing the State Board of Elections asked a federal judge to set an earlier deadline for third party candidates to file petitions to get on the Nov. 3 ballot — and to increase the number of signatures those candidates must gather. As an alternative, the lawyer for the state said, the court could leave it to the election board to decide the deadline and necessary number of signatures.

Just two weeks ago, Chief U.S. District Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer, noting that the coronavirus pandemic would make it more difficult to collect signatures, pushed back the deadline for submitting nominating petitions to Aug. 7 from June 22. Pallmeyer also ruled that candidates need to submit only 10% of the normal number of signatures and can include ones made electronically — with a finger or a computer mouse or stylus.

That has caught the attention of election officials across the state, who worry that the later deadline won’t allow enough time for the normal objection process to play out.

There might not be enough time left to print up the ballots, they warn, especially given that many more people are expected to request mail-in ballots.

That said, the Board of Elections’ request for a July 6 petition deadline strikes us as too early.

Pandemic or not, third party and independent candidates deserve a fighting chance to get on the ballot. The established parties collected their petitions signatures way back in the fall.

There is little time left for delays. Pulling off sound elections will be tough enough during, or in the wake of, a deadly pandemic.

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