Friday, May 09, 2008

Con Con Considerations: Petition Signatures

Convention Considerations

The November ballot will ask voters whether Illinois should have a Constitutional Convention. A Constitutional Convention would be authorized to review any portion of Illinois' Constitution they wanted to -- and to propose an entirely new document, amendments to existing provisions, or additions of new materials.

But the Constitution also leaves much to the General Assembly to determine. Others have taken a position on whether or not there should be a Convention, and even on what issues a Convention should address if it is called. This page is less interested in what a Convention might accomplish as in how it might work.

Fourth in a series

Electing the Delegates

The Constitution provides that there shall be two delegates elected from each Senatorial District and directs the General Assembly to make that happen. How that should happen would be up to the legislature.

How Many Signatures Should Delegate Candidates Collect on Petitions?

Partisanship has a decisive impact on the number of signatures a candidate must gather to place their name on the ballot. The constitution provides that delegates will run in Senate districts. Currently, candidates seeking the nomination of an established party for a State Senate seat need to gather signatures of voters
in the district equal to 1% of the number of voters in the last election, with a minimum of 1,000; in most Senate districts, the requirement is 1,000 signatures. Candidates seeking to run without a party affiliation need a number of signatures equal to at least 5% of the number of voters in the last election. In no district is that fewer than 1,300 names and it can range to over 4,000.

The point of requiring candidates to gather petition signatures is to demonstrate that a candidate has credible support in the district. But candidates need only demonstrate support; the campaign is for reaching out across the district.

If delegates are to be elected with partisan affiliations, then should the signature requirements mirror those for State Senate? If delegates are to be elected in non-partisan elections, then what requirement is sufficient to demonstrate support but not so high as to discourage credible candidates? Even if the delegates are chosen without party labels, should the petition signature requirements be on par with that of party primaries?

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