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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Signature Requirement to Run for Chicago Mayor Upheld

In order to appear on the ballot for the office of  Mayor of the City of Chicago, candidates must submit petitions signed by at least 12,500 registered voters. In the 2011 election for mayor, 20 candidates submitted petitions to run for Mayor.  Three of the candidates submitted petitions that contained less than the required signatures - 2625, 250, and 10,200 valid signatures - and were disqualified.  They and another candidate sued the Board of Election Commissioners, alleging that the signature requirement was unconstitutional.  The district court denied their motion for a preliminary injunction, and they were not allowed on the ballot.  

On appeal to the 7th Circuit, the candidates argued that the 12,500 signature requirement, the 90 day window for collecting signatures, and the rule that a voter cannot sign more than one candidate's petition in any election cycle violates ballot access rights under the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, the candidates argued that these requirements severely burden the "Average Joes" and "Janes" who cannot afford to hire circulators to collect signatures. 

The 7th Circuit disagreed, ruling in favor of the Board of Election Commissioners.  First, the Court noted that 9 candidates satisfied the signature requirement, evidence that the burden was not severe.  Second, 12,500 signatures is only about 1% of the registered voters in the City, much less than the signature requirements for office in other Cook County municipalities. Third, the 90 day window for collecting signatures was not a particularly short time-frame. The one-signature rule applies to all candidates, and was not a severe burden on ballot access.  Finally, the Court noted that one of the purposes of the signature requirement was to block frivolous candidates from the ballot, an important goal.  Stone v. Board of Election Commissioners of Chicago, (7th Cir. April 25, 2014)


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