Tom Kacich: Third-party hopeful seeks your signature
Josh Dill wants to be your 13th District congressman, but it sounds like he's getting discouraged.
"I started off going door to door and realized that unless I have 2,000 hours to do it, I'm not going to hit the goal on time, even with 20 people helping me," said Dill, a Springfield man (but born in Danville) who is running as a member of the new Lincoln Liberty Party.
Because he is not a member of the Republican or Democratic parties, Dill and his allies have to collect about 15,000 valid petition signatures from registered voters in the congressional district that includes Champaign-Urbana, Decatur and Springfield. And they have to do it by June 23, just to get on the November general election ballot.
If he makes it, Dill will be running against Republican incumbent Rep. Rodney Davis of Taylorville and Democratic challenger Ann Callis of Edwardsville.
While Dill is spending all his time collecting signatures on petitions, Davis and Callis are spending much of their time collecting money. At last count Davis had $951,904 on hand, Callis had $513,898 and Dill had zero.
"They don't make it easy for you," Dill, 30, said of the rules for third-party candidates in Illinois, rules which were developed by Democrats and Republicans. "I'd like to say I'm still optimistic. I haven't actually kept track of how many signatures we have, but I think we have 2,000 or 3,000."
He planned to be in Champaign-Urbana this weekend, collecting signatures on the University of Illinois campus and among the crowds at the Illinois Marathon.
"If we get 10 (thousand) to 11,000 after this weekend, I think we can hit the number pretty easily after that. That's the goal, at least," Dill said.
After that, even if he reaches his signature goal, his petitions likely will be challenged by representatives of the Republicans or Democrats.
"We'll turn them in and hope that the Democrats and Republicans don't try to smother democracy," Dill said.
Dianna Visek of Urbana isn't a candidate, but she has a similar challenge. As a regional representative of the national Libertarian Party, she is involved in the effort to get the Illinois party's candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, secretary of state and treasurer on the statewide ballot.
The Libertarians need to get at least 25,000 signatures to qualify their statewide candidates this year.
Visek, recognizable by her bright purple hair, will spend much of the next two months on the UI campus, at the Strawberry Fields store, at the Urbana farmers market and at other community events, hustling to get signatures.
"The Ds and the Rs don't like each other but they like third parties even less. They like the system where maybe they're on top now but if not, they can aspire fairly easily to it next time. But what they really don't want is third parties bringing up issues that aren't on the establishment agenda," she said.
It's not just the burdensome signature requirement that peeves Libertarian supporters, she said, "but it's a whole lot of things that make life more difficult for third parties.
"In general, third parties have to get 10 times as many signatures to get on the ballot as the Rs and Ds do," she said. "We have to have 25,000 valid signatures. And because we are challenge state, one of three challenge states in the country, we try to get closer to 50,000 signatures.
"We were challenged in 2010 by the Republicans. I would expect the same thing would happen again this year because they have the erroneous idea that we take votes disproportionately from them. We take votes from both the Ds and the Rs but more importantly we bring people to the ballot box who wouldn't normally be voting. We are actually bringing people into the election process, into civic involvement that would not otherwise be there."
Visek contends Illinois' electoral system "has been carefully crafted to keep out alternative choices because the Ds and the Rs don't want to have to talk about certain things" like pensions, redistricting and term limits.
"By making all of these little things add up to make the whole process be incredibly burdensome for third parties, then you don't have them. What happens is that these third parties have to spend so much time, energy and resources on getting on the ballot that there isn't that much left over for campaigning," she said.
The petition challenges, she predicted, will be done by the two major parties' legislative aides, who won't be occupied with legislative duties in late June.
"I discovered how they do it. They use legislative aides. The way they get away with it is that they pay for them with their PAC money rather than their legislative money," Visek said. "But what this means is you have a pool of trained, motivated, available labor use whenever you need it to hassle people you don't like. They can be pressed into service to kick Libertarians or other third parties off of the ballot.
"All of this stuff is not just unfair to us, it's unfair to voters in that it reduces their rights and it reduces the choices they have at the ballot. It's unfair to everybody, in my opinion."
Visek would like Illinois to adopt "a more reasonable signature requirement," or to have all candidates for an office pay the same filing fee, something like 1 percent of the annual salary for the office, she said.
She said she's "absolutely, positively not concerned" that the Libertarians won't get on the November ballot.
"We will be there no matter what the Ds or Rs try to do to us," she said.
But it's less certain that other alternate voices, like Dill's Lincoln Liberty Party, or the Green or Constitution parties, will make it.
"Because this is carefully designed to keep other voices out, it helps to maintain corruption," Visek said. "You don't get new people who aren't part of the system and you don't get new issues being brought up. You don't get people telling the uncomfortable truths that the Ds and the Rs don't want to deal with. It's not the only thing that leads to corruption in Illinois but it's a big reason there is corruption."
Here are the websites for the third parties hoping to get on the ballot in Illinois this fall:
Lincoln Liberty: http://www.lincolnliberty.org/
Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette editor and columnist. His column appears Sundays and Wednesdays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.