Why the Green Party has fewer candidates this year

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Having the Green Party presidential candidate in town tonight for a fund-raiser raises the question: Where are all the Greens in local races this year?

In the Chicago area, there are only four. Three candidates – Nasrin R. Khalili, Dave Ehrlich and Karen Roothaan – are running for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District. The fourth, Nancy Wade, is the Green Party candidate in the 5th Congressional District (she’s joining Stein at the fund-raiser at the Grafton Pub in Chicago).

That’s a drop from recent elections. And the reason can be found in Illinois’ election code, which doesn’t make life easy for alternative parties. An established party is required to gather far fewer signatures on petitions to place a candidate on the ballot than a new party is.

The Green Party had obtained status as an established party in the past, but the last gubernatorial campaign turned into a five-way race when Scott Lee Cohen got in, which split the vote. That dropped the Green candidate for governor, Rich Whitney, below the 5 percent cutoff. So the Greens don’t automatically qualify statewide as an established party this time around.

But how about if they got 5 percent or more in a particular district, as some of them did – even topping 20 percent? Sorry, it’s a redistricting year, so every district is treated as a new district because the boundaries have changed. It’s sort of like hitting a reset button. (You can tell the election code wasn’t written by the alternative parties.)

In the 5th Congressional District, that meant Wade had to collect 5,000 signatures instead of 600. And a 5,000 minimum means a candidate must collect some 8,000 to 9,000 to be sure of surviving petition challenges. That’s a steep hill to climb.

“it’s frustrating,” says Andrew Finko, a lawyer and Green Party member.

Phil Huckleberry, the state Green Party chairman, said the party would have fielded about seven more congressional candidates statewide under normal circumstances.

“It stinks,” Huckleberry said. “This is the first time since 2000 that we haven’t had any General Assembly candidates.”

This year’s Illinois ballot will have four presidential candidates, including Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson. The Green vice presidential candidate will be Cheri Honkala of Pennsylvania, a longtime advocate for the homeless, and the Libertarian is James P. Gray.

If Stein and Johnson don’t get 5 percent of the vote, that raises the question of whether the Greens and Libertarians will be considered new parties for the 2014 gubernatorial election. New parties have to get 25,000 signatures for a statewide candidate, which means (because of petition challenges) you really need about 40,000. And the election code says you have to field a full slate – attorney general, comptroller, treasurer, governor and secretary of state.

That’s five times as many signatures as an established party would need.

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