Court gives outsiders a shot

Court gives outsiders a shot

Democrats and Republicans work well together when it's convenient to do so.

Democrats and Republicans in Illinois don't agree on much.

But there is one opinion they share with fervent enthusiasm — they don't want "nobody nobody sent," as the late federal Judge Abner Mikva once said.

In other words, third-party or independent candidates for the state and local offices Democrats and Republicans traditionally seek are not welcome to the Election Day party. To ensure it's an exclusive event, the parties conspired in the General Assembly to pass legislation designed to keep the outsiders on the outs with the public.

But at least part of that unprincipled act of chicanery went down in flames in late September when a federal appeals court in Chicago struck down the state's ballot-access law that effectively denied a third-party candidate — in this case, a Libertarian candidate for auditor in Kane County — from access to the ballot.

Well, good. It's about time. The next-ballot access roadblock that ought to be pitched is a similar measure that forces independent candidates to collect far more voter petition signatures than Republicans and Democrats.

But, this being Illinois, where the roguish is routine, a partial victory will have to do, at least for now.

Here's the bipartisan deal the Republicrats struck to block competition from third parties.

Demonstrating just how crass they were, legislators here are the only ones in all 50 states to pass this harsh restriction on third parties.

The law required that the Libertarian candidate in Kane County, in addition to having to collect an excessive number of signatures on petitions, could not gain access to the ballot unless the party also ran candidates for circuit clerk, recorder, state's attorney, coroner, county board chairman and school superintendent.

In other words, the party needed to fill seven other ballot spots to allow voters to cast their ballots for the Libertarian candidate for county clerk.

Defending the arrangement, the state argued that "the full-ballot requirement is justified by its interest in political stability, preventing ballot overcrowding and avoiding voter confusion."

That explanation is, on its face, nonsensical. To prevent voter confusion and an overcrowded ballot, the law required third parties to recruit multiple candidates, all of whom would have varying degrees of interest in making the run, just to get a county clerk candidate on the ballot?

What rot.

Of course, Judge Diane Sykes, who wrote the unanimous decision for the three-judge panel, didn't put it that way. She concluded that there were "no compelling state interests" that would justify the restrictions.

"Indeed, by incentivizing minor parties to manufacture frivolous candidacies as a means to an end, the full-slate requirement actually thwarts the interests Illinois invokes."

Of course, the compelling-state-interest argument was a sham, cover for the real reason for restricting the activities of third-party members — the Republicrats' compelling political interest to limit their competition.

There has been some speculation that Illinois will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the appellate court ruling. It would be foolish to do so, a waste of time, money and precious government resources.

Beyond that, it would be no big deal. It's highly unlikely the high court would grant a review to so frivolous an appeal, not after the state has lost at the trial and appellate court levels.

An appeal request, however, would demonstrate the high degree of interest Illinois Republicrats have in maintaining exclusive control of the political status quo. But what is in their interest doesn't pass constitutional muster and doesn't serve the public interest.

Sections (2):Editorials, Opinion