Eric Reyes is a lawyer. Members of our editorial board are not. So we hesitate to second-guess his decision to ask the courts to overturn the Illinois State Board of Elections decision to keep him off the November ballot.|
But given that the would-be independent in the 17th Congressional District race had collected just 900 signatures -- a fraction of the 5,000 required under state law to get on the ballot -- it would appear that he is tilting at windmills.
The best backers of good government and open elections can hope, then, is that his case will draw attention to unfair laws which stack the deck against third-party candidates of all stripes. Consider, for example, Mr. Reyes bid to run as an independent in the race to represent the 17th District.
By law U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Colona, and Democrat Cheri Bustos, of East Moline, needed just 600 valid signatures each to get on the ballot. Mr. Reyes was required to get nearly eight and a half times that. He's right that such a system runs contrary to the Illinois constitutional requirement that elections be "free and equal." Though there are occasional calls to reform the system, they rarely go anywhere.
Indeed, after Democrats were embarrassed in the last gubernatorial race by the Scott Lee Cohen, the General Assembly made it even tougher for independents in Illinois. He is the pawn shop owner who was elected as Democrat Gov. Pat Quinn's lieutenant governor candidate. But he was pressured to drop out after accusations of domestic abuse and steroid use surfaced. He later gathered the signatures needed to run for governor as an independent candidate thus, political observers speculate, taking votes away from Gov. Quinn, who barely squeaked by GOP challenger state Sen. Bill Brady.
The Legislature then passed a law preventing candidates who vote Democrat or Republican in a primary from running as an independent in the following general election. Objectors also cited that law to disqualify Mr. Reyes, who announced as a Democrat before he decided to switch to an independent bid.
Mr. Reyes has just a few days to file his challenge to the board's ruling. He says he plans to do so. Good. We support his quixotic quest in the hope that it will raise public awareness and thus build support for a fairer, more open election system.
Moline, IL Details
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