A clear winner in the March 20 primary election was the notion that our election laws need a tune-up.
Cook County assessor candidate Andrea Raila was kicked off the ballot so late that her name already was on ballots distributed around the county. Election authorities responded by distributing notices that votes for her wouldn’t count. Then, just six days before the election — after early voting already had started — an appellate court ruled that votes for Raila would, indeed, count.
Not exactly democracy at its finest.
Fixing that problem is at the heart of three proposals from Cook County Clerk David Orr. It may be too late for this legislative session, scheduled to wrap up at the end of the month, but the Legislature should take up all three reforms as soon as possible.
Between the deadline for candidates to file their petitions and the start of early voting, there simply isn’t enough time to fairly settle all ballot challenges. Most recently, candidates had to file by Dec. 4, and early voting started on March 5.
Orr wants to add two more weeks, and the Legislature should go for it, although his companion idea to move the primary to May might not get much support.
Second, Orr points out that it makes no sense to require some candidates for office in Cook County to gather more than 8,000 signatures when only 5,000 are needed to run for governor. To run for mayor of Chicago, a candidate must collect 12,500 valid signatures, which in the real world of city politics usually means having to collect at least 25,000 signatures to weather the storm of petition challenges.
That requires a lot of beating the bushes for signatures in a multi-candidate race because voters are allowed to sign a petition for only one candidate. If the nine people now talking about running for mayor next year actually do so, they together will need signatures from almost half of the turnout in the last mayoral election.
A little excessive, can we agree? A 5,000-signature cap on signatures for all state and local offices would be prudent.
A third promising idea is to follow Denver’s lead and allow people circulating petitions to use internet-connected tablet computers that would instantly determine whether a signature on a petition is valid. That would cut down on the time needed to deal with signature challenges after candidates file.
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