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CCHE 12/23/11: It's not easy being the Green Party in the state of Illinois

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  • Rick Kissell
    It s not easy being the Green Party in the state of Illinois by John Presta Chicago City Hall Examiner  December 23, 2011 Laurel Lambert Schmidt ran for
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 25, 2011
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      It's not easy being the Green Party in the state of Illinois

      by John Presta
      Chicago City Hall Examiner 
      December 23, 2011

      Laurel Lambert Schmidt ran for Congress as a candidate for the Illinois Green Party (ILGP) in the 3rd Congressional district in 2010 and made a respectable showing, garnering 6% of the vote. Schmidt was excited at the chance to run again in 2012.

      The Illinois Green Party (ILGP) is a so-called third party.Laurel Lambert Schmidt will be traveling to Springfield (Illinois) on Tuesday, December 27th to file her 1315 petitions that she and about a dozen volunteers collected in the 3rd Congressional District to run again in the 2012 election in the same district, now redrawn. She only needed 600 petitions to be placed on the ballot as a member of the ILGP.

      However, The Illinois Board of Election (ISBE) will likely not accept her petitions as an Illinois Green Party candidate this time, because the IBSE no longer recognizes the ILGP as an "established political party." For Schmidt to gain ballot access for the 3rd Congressional district, she would now need 5000 signatures.

      ISBE ruled that in this election year of 2012, ILGP is not an "established political party."

      ILGP Chairman, Phil Huckleberry decided to file a lawsuit against the ISBE. Election Attorney Andrew Finko is handling the lawsuit on behalf of the ILGP. The lawsuit involves all other candidates that received at least 5% of the vote in other areas of Illinois. The initial lawsuit was filed in October and the case is about ballot access and the issue of an "established political party."

      The Board's argument is that since the old districts no longer exist due to decennial redistricting, the 5 percent rule does not apply in the new districts.
      "(Schmidt’s) situation demonstrates the absurdity of the Board's position," said Phil Huckelberry, Illinois Green Party chairman.

      As an established party candidate, Schmidt would need to submit a petition in December with valid signatures from 600 registered voters in the district, and would then be on the March primary ballot.

      Non-established or "new" party candidates would have to file 5,000 signatures in June.

      "The advantages for established party candidates are substantial, " said Huckelberry. "Forums and debates are often set up by June, and a number of organizations will have already issued endorsements based on who is already on the ballot."

      The lawsuit filed by the ILGP is on behalf of candidate Laurel Lambert Schmidt for Congress in the 3rd Congressional District in 2010 against the ISBE. During that election Schmidt ran against Democratic Congressman Dan Lipinski (D-3) and Republican candidate Michael A. Bendas. The lawsuit also includes other Green party candidates that received at least 5% of the vote in their elections.

      In Illinois, an "established political party" is defined as a party that receives at least 5% of the vote in the preceding election. So does the fact that a Congressional district is redrawn, does that change the words "preceding election." The ISBE has decided that the fact the districts were redrawn, it changes the criteria for an "established political party."

      The ILGP had lost its first case in Cook County Circuit Court before Circuit Judge Edmund Ponce de Leon, who is also the Presiding Judge for the 4th Municipal District. The court cited the precedent of Vestrup v. DuPage County Election Commission, which was a 2002 case involving a Libertarian Party candidate.

      The Illinois Green Party (ILGP) suffered another setback on Thursday in their bid to gain "ballot access" for several of its candidates statewide in Illinois. The First Judicial District Illinois Appellate Court (5th Division) ruled the Green Party cannot be on the March primary ballot in Illinois. The order to affirm an earlier lower court ruling was signed by Appellate Court Justices James R. Epstein, Joseph Gordon, Margaret Stanton McBride, and Nathaniel R. Howse Jr.

      What is necessary for a party to be recognized as an "established political party." To be an "established political party" in Illinois, the party in question would have had to receive at least 5% of the vote in the last general election. Rich Whitney, who was the statewide candidate for governor in 2010, did not receive at least 5% of the vote. Had Whitney received 5% of the statewide vote in the 2010 election, the entire party would have been recognized statewide and there would be no issue or lawsuit.

      The rationale the ISBE gave for that ruling is that the ILGP ceased to exist due to geographic boundary changes due to redistricting. That since the 3rd Congressional district (as an example) has changed, Laurel Lambert Schmidt, according to the court, did not receive 6% of the vote in the same district.

      The question is why does redistricting negate the ILGP access to the ballot. The law is clear on what constitutes an "established political party."

      Is it undue party influence over the judiciary at play here? Is it understood by the judges that this is the way you rule. ILGP Attorney Andrew Finko makes that convincing argument.

      The ILGP asked for an expedited appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court. The First Judicial Circuit issued an order Thursday affriming Judge Ponce de Leon's ruling, but also allowing an accelerated appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court. The case will be appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court and ILGP attorney, Andrew Finko, assumes the court will hear the matter.

      ILGP Attorney Finko does not feel that he can get a fair hearing on the matter here in Illinois. Finko says, "The case is very politically motivated, and indirectly raises the issue. Can a third party ever get a fair day in a bi-partisan court?"

      Ironically, Andrew Finko quotes former Cook County Cicuit Court Clerk and currently an Applelate Court Judge, Aurelia Pucinski (who is a candidate for the Illinois Supreme Court), who "made the argument (unsuccessfully) to the Democratic slate makers that judges should not be affiliated with party, but independently nominated. I agree."

      Andrew Finko is adamant about the cozy relationship between the court and the Democratic Party. "In Cook County, all the trial court and appellate court judges are Democrats and owe their jobs to the Democratic party that endorsed, promoted, and made it possible for them to be elected. Outsiders do not get elected to judge," said Finko.

      He added, "Regardless of the appearances, they all have an inherent, non-waivable conflict of interest when presiding over political cases. Whether directly and/or indirectly, they all want to help their team and keep their good relations with the party that gave them their jobs."

      He adds that the Vestrup v. DuPage County Election Commission was a DuPage County case and the judges there are Republican. Same rationale applies in DuPage County, he adds. Different parties, same self-interest.

      But Andrew Finko is becoming disillusioned with the court system, especially when it comes to political cases. "They just rubber stamp the Establishment. "

      The essential question that Andrew Finko asks is this. "How can a third party get any justice in a bi-partisan court." He adds, "Not in this country."

      John Presta is the author of an award-winning book, the 2010 Winner of the USA National Best Book award for African-American studies, published by The Elevator Group: Mr. and Mrs. Grassroots: How Barack Obama, Two Bookstore Owners, and 300 Volunteers did it. Also available an eBook on Amazon.

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