House bill would change regulations for ‘slating’

By Jen Harvey

This bill, passed in the Illinois House of Representatives on April 2, deals with election reform.

House Bill 723’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Fortner (R-95), hopes this bill will even the playing field for all candidates. Under this legislation, candidates would first be required to get a specified number of citizens’ signatures before being slated. The bill would also limit the amount of time for a party to slate a candidate to 16 days after the primary election.

“If a candidate is slated, they don’t have to have the written support of any citizen,” said Fortner.

Under current Illinois election code, if an established party does not enter a candidate into the primary election, the party can nominate a candidate during the general election by “slating” someone to fill the empty space. Slating is the selection of a candidate by a party committee to fill a party’s vacancy in the general election. In Illinois, the Democratic, Green and Republican parties are the only parties considered “established.”

Illinois Green Party Chair Phil Huckelberry is calling this bill the “Protect Incumbents Act” because it could remove election competition. Huckelberry said he believes slating allows voters more choices in elections that are often uncontested. Requiring candidates to get high numbers of signatures before they can be officially slated makes it far more difficult for candidates to run, he added.

“Slating is a necessary offset to the election code,” Huckelberry said. “Collecting these signatures is extremely difficult and the effective result of this bill is that no party, except in isolated cases, would be able to get them.”

In order to run in a primary election, candidates are required first to get voters’ signatures of support. Only after these signatures are attained can a candidate’s name be added to the ballot. Fortner said he believes slating does not help candidates win elections.

“One of the best ways to win an election is to get signatures asking for support,” Fortner said. “Anyone can still collect signatures and file them to be added to the primary. It’s that just right now, Illinois has a loophole where you can avoid the entire signature process by being slated.”

Rep. Naomi Jakobsson (D-103) voted to pass this bill.

“I can never quite understand why people don’t run in the primary in the first place,” Jakobsson said. “In Illinois, even incumbents have to get signatures, and I think it’s really important for people who are running go through the same types of steps.”

A similar bill did not pass through the Illinois House last year and Huckelberry said he does not think this bill adheres to current Illinois trends.

“If the bill does pass through the Senate, we (The Illinois Green Party) have the feeling Governor Quinn would veto it,” Huckelberry said. “Springfield is looking for election reform and this bill is headed in the opposite direction.”