Letter to Governor Pritzker Regarding Ballot Access and COVID-19
Dear Governor Pritzker, President Harmon, Speaker Madigan, and Director Sandvoss,
For months, the Green Party has been preparing for the start of the petitioning period applicable to “new” political parties, which begins on March 24, 2020, and ends on June 22, 2020. The Illinois Green Party has held its nominating convention and has nominated Green Party candidates for the 2020 Illinois statewide ballot. (Under the Election Code, the Green Party was not eligible to participate in the state's Primary Election this year for statewide offices.)
The Green Party has successfully completed Illinois statewide petition drives in the recent past (including 2012 and 2016), and we are confident that, without the recent turn of events involving COVID-19, we would have successfully completed the petition drive this year as well.
According to current state law, a new political party must file 25,000 valid petition signatures to get ballot access for this year's Illinois statewide General Election ballot. Experience teaches us (and other electoral candidates) that it is wise to gather twice the number of required signatures, in order to account for problems with voter registrations. Given past response rates, this would translate into well over half a million public contacts.
However, because of the COVID-19 outbreak and the Governor's responsive Executive Orders, as well as the national state of emergency, local restrictions, and related health-care protocols regarding social distancing, the Green Party's ability to obtain the necessary signatures here in Illinois this year has been essentially nullified. We acknowledge that the actions taken to limit gatherings and ensure social distancing are appropriate for containing and controlling the virus, but they also make it literally impossible for the candidates of minority political parties, as well as independent candidates, to be placed on the general election ballot.
Current circumstances make petitioning extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, for the party and its candidates, as well as make it risky, health-wise, for the petitioners and the potential signers.
Any efforts at gathering enough signatures for the statewide ballot depend on face-to-face contact with as many potential petition signers as possible, and large crowds—now banned by law—normally provide the primary source for signers. Even where registered voters may be found in smaller gatherings, or may be passing by on a sidewalk, current health-care protocols advising that a distance of at least six feet be maintained between unfamiliar persons make petitioning all but impossible.
Moreover, few people remaining in the security of their homes are likely to open their doors to petitioners in this environment, let alone agree to have a close conversation and handle a clipboard and pen being handed to them by a stranger. Likewise, most prospective petitioners, including the many volunteers who have assisted us in the past, are understandably going to be reluctant to handle a clipboard and pen that has passed through the hands, and within close proximity of the nose and mouth, of large numbers of unknown persons.
Accordingly, we respectfully request that the Governor, General Assembly, and the Board of Elections take account of these radically changed circumstances and take immediate emergency action to honor the right of our political party and its candidates for President, Vice President, and U.S. Senate to appear on the general election ballot.
We ask that the petition signature requirement for the statewide ballot be waived or suspended for the current election cycle for the Illinois Green Party’s statewide candidates. We understand that the Libertarian Party of Illinois may be making a similar request and we would be supportive of that party being granted a waiver as well.
We would also ask for similar relief for Green Party candidates planning to petition to attain ballot status in county-level races in Jackson County, Illinois.
We can be contacted expeditiously at [email protected] Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
Co-Chairs, Illinois Green Party