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Rauner dealt double blows over Illinois ballot

Published: Friday, Aug. 22, 2014 11:18 p.m. CST
Caption
(AP photo)
Illinois State Board of Elections member Harold Byers speaks to fellow board members during a meeting Friday to certify the November ballot, including decisions on whether challenged Green and Libertarian candidates can be on the ticket in Springfield. Proponents of term limits for Illinois lawmakers are hoping a referendum question on that issue will be included on the ballot, but it will require the state Supreme Court to take up the issue at the last minute and reverse two lower court decisions.

SPRINGFIELD – Illlinois Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner suffered a double blow Friday with the approval of a Nov. 4 ballot that does not include his referendum to limit the terms of Illinois lawmakers but features a Libertarian candidate which could undercut his draw of conservative votes.

The move by the eight-member State Board of Elections came as the state Supreme Court rejected Rauner's request that it quickly consider whether the term limits measure violates a state constitutional provision requiring that any changes to the Legislature be both structural and procedural.

"The Springfield career politicians won today, and the people of Illinois lost. But the people will have the final say," Rauner said in a statement after the decisions, referring to the November election.

The ballot —one of the heftiest in Illinois history — leads off with five referendums on the November ballot aimed at boosting turnout among the Democratic base, which typically drops off in Illinois during non-presidential elections. Ballot questions, approved by the Democrat-controlled legislature in the spring, largely advance the party's class-warfare election theme, and range from whether Illinois should raise the minimum wage, to requiring prescription birth control to be covered in health insurance plans, and placing an additional tax on income over $1 million to fund education. It is followed by races for U.S. Senate, governor, statewide constitutional offices, congressional and state legislative races.

Attorneys for top Democrats, including longtime House Speaker Michael Madigan — who has served in the legislature since 1971— sued to keep the term limits question off the ballot, arguing the measure was unconstitutional and that taxpayer money shouldn't be spent on it.

Election board members voted that Green Party, Constitution and Independent candidates for governor not be included on the ballot because the parties gathered too few valid signatures. The board at the same time allowed Libertarian candidates for governor Chad Grimm and lieutenant governor candidate Alexander Cummings to appear along with Rauner and Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.

Kent Redfield, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois Springfield, said the decisions Friday could hurt Rauner's efforts to drive voter turnout.

"In a close election it's a better set of circumstances than the Democrats might have had," Redfield said.

Rauner has criticized Quinn as ineffective in solving the financial problems of Illinois, which has the lowest debt rating among states, billions of dollars in unfunded pensions pledged to state workers, and higher unemployment than most Midwest states. Quinn has blasted the wealthy Rauner as a heartless businessman who has stashed money in Cayman Islands bank accounts and eliminated jobs in companies he owned.

Third-party candidates typically take about 5 percent of the vote, stripping votes away from Republicans or Democrats, with recent election history showing their ability to swing a very close race. In 2010, Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn defeated Republican state Sen. Bill Brady by less than one percent of 3.6 million votes, with independent, Green and Libertarian candidates received up about 7 percent of the total vote.

Meanwhile, Democratic Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough challenged the validity of the Greens' signature petitions, which could eat away at Quinn's Democratic vote totals. The Green Party had more than the 25,000 signatures required of non-established political parties that receive less than 5 percent of the popular vote in the previous election. But Yarbrough challenged 12,000 of those signatures.

The Green Party, in turn, filed a federal lawsuit aimed at the process. A judge rejected that suit on Thursday, on the grounds that he is staked with upholding the requirement in the state constitution for a party to collect a certain number of valid signatures.

Libertarian Grimm, a 33-yearpold Peoria resident, has made previous unsuccessful bids for state representative and Peoria City Council. He is running on a platform that includes eliminating state income taxes and privatizing education. Grim also calls for the elimination of regulations on firearms — other than gun owners being at least 18 — and "ending the war on marijuana."

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Follow Kerry Lester on Twitter, http://twitter.com/kerrylester

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