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Thursday, September 28, 2017

Court Finds the Election Code’s “Full-Slate Requirement” Unconstitutional

During the 2012 election, the Libertarian Party of Illinois attempted to field a candidate for county auditor in Kane County.  The Libertarian Party was considered a “new party” under Illinois election laws rather than an “established party” because at the previous election it did not poll more than 5% of the entire votes cast within the political subdivision.  Unlike an established party, the Illinois Election Code requires that a new party file “a complete list of candidates of such party for all offices to be filled in the state, or such district or political subdivision as the case may be, at the next ensuing election.” Effectively, the full-slate requirement allowed the Libertarian Party to field a candidate for county auditor only if it also proposed candidates for circuit clerk, reorder, prosecutor, coroner, board chairman, and school superintendent.  

The Libertarian Party challenged the full-slate requirement in federal court, arguing that it violated its right of political association under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The lower court found for the Libertarian Party, and the state appealed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals

The 7th Circuit first determined that a restriction on a political party’s access to the ballot must be narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest because voters can only assert their preferences through candidates or parties. The court rejected the state’s argument that the full-slate requirement was justified by the state’s interest in political stability, preventing ballot overcrowding, and avoiding voter confusion, finding that “we have little difficulty concluding that the full-slate requirement severely burdens the First Amendment rights of minor parties, their members, and voters.” The court held that by creating unwanted candidates, the full-slate requirement actually increased political instability, ballot overcrowding, and voter confusion.  The court noted that Illinois' new party law was the only one of its kind in the country. Finally, the 7th Circuit concluded that a party’s failure to field a full-slate candidate could not preclude a party’s candidate from accessing the ballot and held that the full-slate requirement of the Illinois Election Code was unconstitutional.

Although the 7th Circuit found Illinois' statutory "full slate" requirement for new party candidates was unconstitutional, it did not strike down the other statutory requirements for new parties, including the minimum signature requirements.  Libertarian Party of Illinois v. Scholz (7th Cir. Sept. 22, 2017)

Post Authored by Jessi DeWalt & Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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