In the land where the dead rise to vote, it is long known that the election code the state operates under is absurd. Illinois has taken ballot engineering to an art form to ensure the election results are known before the first vote is cast. Like all complex systems, however, they are bound to fail in spectacular ways.
Illinois has a long process to challenge the petitions of anyone who files for office. It is often used to keep “outsiders” off the ballot either by ensnaring them in hypertechnical offenses or simply bog a candidate down in thousands of dollars in legal fees and bury their campaign by attrition. Vote fraud is difficult to undertake on a large scale and requires many people and resources to accomplish quietly. Why resort to fraud when you can simply ensure the voters don’t have a choice to begin with?
As an example, if you file your petition paperwork with a paperclip instead of a staple, that is cause to remove you from the ballot. As a historical note, President Obama won his first election to the Illinois State Senate by removing every opponent, including the incumbent, from the ballot–thereby running unopposed. This process has been used to dramatic effect to settle elections long before voters have a say. What good is the right to vote if you don’t have any choices?
However, this system has now broken down with every candidate for president in Illinois having their paperwork challenged and all the flaws for each candidate are apparently fatal. Several candidates didn’t use their home addresses on their petitions, one didn’t use an Illinois notary to notarize their paperwork and another put in “statewide” for the district they were running in instead of “Illinois”. Even Obama was challenged, but I assume those are birther challenges and we’ll just move past those.
On one level, it is embarrassing that a presidential campaign simply missed some of these obvious mistakes. While your local school board candidate should have some leniency with the minutiae of electoral law compliance, a higher standard should be expected of an aspirant to the most powerful office of the world. That said, I fully place my trust in the voters in how they weight that information and not some unelected board of insiders who will make the choice for me and millions of other voters.
Imagine the national embarrassment if Illinois is the only state that doesn’t have a presidential nomination race because our election code is so broken that it prevents it. And it wasn’t like this problem couldn’t have been avoided. There was an attempt to at least reform the way the Illinois Republican Party selects presidential delegates but that was ultimately derailed.
Election law reform is a boring topic that is highly technical which makes it difficult to talk about on the campaign trail. However, it has been a pet issue of mine in several of the attempts I’ve made to reform the laws and constitution regarding the election process in Illinois. Hopefully now the voters will see how broken the system is and demand an election system that puts them firmly in charge of their public officials instead of the other way around.