Coronavirus restrictions create problems for independent and third-party candidates seeking a place on the fall ballot
Photo Credit: Rich Whitney, state Green Party co-chair, greets people on a sidewalk in Chicago in 2010 when he was a candidate for governor.(Jos M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)
Tuesday marked the first day for independent and third-party contenders to start seeking voter petition signatures to make the November ballot, but their already difficult task has been made even tougher due to restrictions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Even without any public health concerns, independent and third-party candidates had a tougher job to get on the ballot since they are required to get several times the signatures Republicans and Democrats need to qualify for their primary ballots.
By Rick Pearson
March 24, 2020
For the statewide ballot, including president and U.S. Senate, the established parties needed a minimum of 5,000 signatures, which usually translates to getting double that number to avoid a petition challenge. Independent and third-party candidates need a minimum of 25,000 signatures, and generally double that to ensure their petitions withstand scrutiny.
Third-party and independent candidates trying for lower-ballot offices, such as for Congress and the state legislature, also have higher signature requirements than Republicans and Democrats. The number of signatures varies, based on previous voter turnout, but can range from double to five times the signatures needed by established party candidates.
The signature-gathering period ends June 22.
The Illinois Green Party said that due to Illinois’ stay-at-home requirements, social distancing and restrictions on public gatherings, “normal petitioning has been rendered impossible.”
“Even where public encounters still occur, we cannot ask petitioners to risk their health by approaching strangers to get their signature, nor can we ask people to come within close physical proximity of our petitioners,” said Rich Whitney, state Green Party co-chair.
“We strongly support emergency public health measures. Defeating the pandemic is priority No. 1,” he said. “But these measures also make the petitioning requirements of the election code even more patently unfair than they already were. Even the ridiculous requirement that circulators must have each of the 5,000 petition sheets notarized now poses highly problematic health risks.”
Whitney twice previously ran for governor, making the Greens an established party briefly, when he got more than 10% of the vote in the 2006 general election. He got less than 3% in the 2010 contest.
Whitney said the Green Party will follow best practices and adhere to governmental restrictions due to the health crisis. But he said those conditions “virtually limit ‘petitioning’ to members of the same household.”