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The Mechanics
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Chicago Mon Mar 01 2010

Will Progressives Stand Up for Democracy?

Getting on the ballot should be easy. There are some regulations that make sense, but they should be stripped to their bare minimum: a small number of verified signatures and residency. The voters are perfectly capable of rooting out the losers and fringe candidates in the ballot booth. There's no argument against the loosest possible ballot access regulations that can't be answered by the fact of voting itself. Restricting access to the ballots is among the most effective tools of incumbents to protect their incumbency, and for political parties to protect their dynasties. There's no excuse for increasing restrictions.

So why are some Chicago Democrats trying to make those regulations more burdensome?

More importantly, will the so-called progressives in the local party step up to push back against this initiative first reported by Progress Illinois:

We recently stumbled across a bill (HB6000) introduced by State Rep. Joe Lyons (D-Chicago) that would make it a whole lot harder for new candidates to get on ballots in 2011. Lyons is attempting to bump up the number of required signatures on nominating petitions in Chicago elections to 500. Compared the current requirement -- a mere 2 percent of the votes cast in the ward during the preceding election year -- enacting the measure would raise the threshold in every ward. In some, the increase would be dramatic; last election cycle, for example, a 22nd Ward candidate only needed 87 names.

There's another catch too. Lyons' measure -- which passed out of committee this week and is headed to the House floor for a vote -- seeks to codify a state statue that ensures each voter can only ink one candidate's petition. That's currently the lay of the state election law, Jim Allen from the Chicago Board of Elections points out, but it has been routinely challenged because of a gray area in another state statute known as the Revised Cities and Villages Act of 1941. That, of course, would be eliminated by writing the rule into the amended statue.

There's a portion of the Chicago political establishment that thrives by characterizing itself as "independent". These are your IVI-IPO types, Lakefront Liberals. Alderman Joe Moore has spoken out against this measure--those politicians hoping to characterize themselves as independents need to step up and take action to push back against bills like this. We can never have real independent politics if these types of ploys are left unopposed by the supposed vanguards of independence. All we'll have left is independent-flavored feudal politics.

 
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beth / March 3, 2010 11:05 AM

There was a time when I believed that most politicians spent 50% of their time legislating for the people they represented and the other 50% of their time trying to keep their job (campaigning, through policy, etc.). But with the state in a budget crisis, the nation facing a record recession, and a variety of problems at every level of government, I have had to re-evaluate. Clearly, politicians no longer believe they are public servants. Their whole game now is "how do I guarantee that I retain this position until I am ready to pass it on to the person of my choice." No tough decisions are being made, bills are being intentionally thwarted for some sort of mass-appeal, and now making it even harder to unseat a local incumbent through a state bill (why are they even wasting time on this in Springfield?). It's getting ridiculous. We need term limits, real campaign financing reform and more than comments on a website to promote transparency. Every day I get a bit more depressed with all this.

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