House Bill 723 attacks underrepresented parties
April 14, 2009
House Bill 723, referred to as the “Protect Incumbents Act” by the Green Party, will be heard in the Illinois Senate on April 21 for the first time after it was passed by the Illinois House of Representatives on April 2. Bill 723 would amend Illinois’ election code, ending the practice of “slating,” a practice popular among Green Party candidates who don’t usually run in primary elections. Slating is when a party’s committee fills the vacancy of a position for the general election.
This bill would also make it so that when no candidate of an established party (which would include Democrats, the Green Party and Republicans) runs in a primary for a particular office, that party can only fill the vacancy in the nomination so long as the specific candidate collects a large amount of signatures.
Currently, if the Democratic, Green or Republican parties do not hold a primary, they have 60 days after all primaries end to slate a candidate. If enacted into law, this bill would allow for only 16 days. In order to fill a vacancy for the general election ballot, a party that did not hold a primary has to get a petition with signatures from 5 percent of the electorate from the last-held general election. The bill would make it even more difficult for the Green Party to have a voice in the Illinois political system, a system that already allows for few alternative voices to be heard. If passed, the bill will require parties to obtain as many signatures for a slated candidate as independent and smaller parties. Since the Democratic and Republican parties rarely have to slate candidates, this bill mostly affects smaller parties, such as the Green Party. This is an attempt to de-legitimize a party that has made progressive gains across the state. To run for state representative, some candidates would have to get more than 2,000 signatures in 90 days, which is nearly impossible — or difficult, to say the least.
While the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Fortner (R-95), says the initiative is to even out the playing field for all candidates, this legislation would make it extremely difficult for a Green Party candidate to get on the ballot; the bill comes off as a direct attack against smaller parties.
The Green Party is underrepresented in the House as well as in the Senate. This bill will make it more difficult for smaller parties to participate in Illinois politics. Smaller parties won’t be able to voice their opposition against this bill. Because the majority of Illinois congressmen are either Democratic or Republican, they will pull a greater weight in deciding the outcome of this bill.
Illinois will never get out of this two-party system unless we allow the Green Party on the ballot, and it shouldn’t be difficult. Factions are the cornerstone of any democracy and Illinois should welcome third parties into the system. In a time when this two-party system has already proven itself to be detrimental to Illinois politics, we need to allow the Green Party to be represented equally with Republicans and Democrats.