Illinois legislators face two paths regarding independent voters

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Christina Tobin, Founder and Chair
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Illinois legislators face two paths regarding independent voters

Two bills before the Illinois legislature offer a stark contrast for reform. One would open up the ballot to more competition, while the other would restrict the right to run for office, for people who vote in a party primary.

HB 2009 is a bill which would make it illegal to run for office as an independent candidate, if a person votes in a party primary. Many independents choose to vote in Illinois’ open primary system, a system which has benefited political parties, since independents who vote in a primary are more likely to vote for that party in the general election. HB 2009 would take away their right to run for office as independents.

HB 2854 is a bill that would make it easier to run for office as an independent, especially for lower income candidates who cannot afford litigation. The bill would give candidates two choices for getting on the ballot: either the current system of gathering a very large number of signatures on a petition, often followed by extensive litigation; or a filing fee.

Illinois is one of the most difficult states in the nation for independent candidates. For instance, independents need to collect 25,000 signatures to get on the ballot for Governor, while Democrats and Republicans need only 5,000. If independents manage to do this, extensive challenges and litigation follow, based on obscure rules which are often selectively enforced.

As well as helping those not experienced with “working the system,” HB 2854 would help lower income candidates, as the cost of litigation is almost always higher than the proposed filing fee. The State must also pay employees for petition review and judicial proceedings, whereas filing fees would generate revenue instead.

“HB 2854 is a win-win for everyone except party bosses,” said Christina Tobin, Chair of The Free & Equal Elections Foundation, which recently wrote a letter supporting the bill. “HB 2009 would take away voting rights. Legislators face clear choices, and the people of Illinois are watching.”


Free & Equal is a nonpartisan, non-profit public-policy advocacy organization dedicated to election reform and improving ballot access laws in the United States.