Dems withdraw petition protest

URBANA – The attorney representing Democratic objections to a Socialist Equality Party candidate in the 103rd House District has withdrawn those objections.

Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden confirmed that objections to the candidate's petitions were officially withdrawn at 4:45 p.m. Thursday, allowing Tom Mackaman a place on the ballot against Democratic incumbent Naomi Jakobsson of Urbana and Republican candidate Deb Feinen of Champaign.

The action ends a month of conflict between the Socialist Equality Party and the Democrats that began June 22, the day after Mackaman filed 2,003 signatures to get on the ballot.

Reviews by the Champaign County Electoral Board earlier this week resulted in the approval of 1,325 signatures, the exact number required for ballot placement. But Shelden said they still had over 400 objections left to review at that point, with at least 200 of those that would have been unquestionably legitimate.

Objections filed by former Champaign County Democratic Chair Gerrie Parr had contested 1,021 signatures.

Shelden said the board would still meet as scheduled on Monday to formalize the findings.

The motion to withdraw the objections states that it was made "based on information received by the objector after she filed her petition."

According to a Socialist Equality Party statement released Friday, "This only confirms what the SEP has said all along: the Democrats arbitrarily selected hundreds of voters to disqualify, without bothering to check whether or not they were registered."

Andrew Spiegel, the attorney representing SEP, said, "Every time you go through an experience like this you realize the ballot access laws in the U.S. must change. The American people are supposed to choose who represents them, but they can't if the power brokers keep their choices off the ballot."

The case has become something of a cause celebre among party faithful worldwide.

Shelden said he had received more than 150 e-mails from across the world advocating for Mackaman.

Mackaman, a graduate student and lecturer in history at the University of Illinois, called the withdrawal of the objections "a victory for democratic rights and one step forward in the fight for the political independence of the working class."

"Against a barefaced attempt by the Democratic Party to strip voters of a core liberty, the right to vote for a candidate of their choice, the Socialist Equality Party prevailed," he said.

You can reach J. Philip Bloomer at (217) 351-5371 or via e-mail at pbloomer@news-gazette.com.

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