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Local Column

EYE ON ILLINOIS: Lasting structural reform far exceeds occasional third-party campaigns

Yesterday’s preview of November’s General Assembly elections considered only Republican and Democratic candidates. While it’s likely voters won’t stray from the mainstream, there will be a few other names on the ballot.

Independent Marcus Throneburg is running in the 37th Illinois Senate District against Win Stoller, a Germantown Hills Republican, to succeed retiring Sen. Chuck Weaver, R-Peoria. In the 78th House District, Libertarian Joshua Flynn is challenging veteran Democrat Rep. Camille Lilly. They might not be alone, but that future is immediately uncertain.

Rules for circulating nominating petitions while the state is under emergency orders related to COVID-19 have been hashed out in court. U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer initially extended the petition deadline from June 22 to Aug. 7, while allowing electronic signatures and reducing requirements by 90 percent. The Illinois State Board of Elections asked her to roll her deadline back a month, citing ballot preparation, but she settled on July 20. The state wants a federal appeals panel to overturn Pallmeyer, but Throneburg suspects the matter is dead.

Throneburg is an experienced politician — a former Bureau County Board member — as well as a former pastor who has a lot of personal connections in and around his hometown. As a true independent he doesn’t have the resources of the Green or Libertarian parties, though he is involved with the lawsuit. 

Yet without the changes, Throneburg said in a Monday phone call, “there was really no practical way” to get on the ballot while abiding by state health guidelines. Now, instead of 4,630 petition signatures he needs only 463. He’s collected most by mail and a few online and in person.

We talked at length about his candidacy, discontent with Springfield — “The system is bad and it’s providing bad results” — and how winning a two-person race is one challenge while being on a Statehouse island is its own daunting task.

Victory, he said, would “send an important message” about voter frustration and perhaps inspire other candidates. The campaign itself is significant, but unless establishment politicians lower ballot access thresholds, all third-party candidates will continue to be heavily disadvantaged even as constituent dissatisfaction escalates.

Will they? Doubtful.

Earlier this decade the Libertarian Party of Illinois sued the state regarding a 2012 Kane County election in which it couldn’t nominate a coroner candidate without also challenging for every other county office. That matter was fought up to the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which in 2017 ruled the “full slate” requirement unconstitutional.

Lasting structural reform far exceeds occasional third-party campaigns. Truly independent voters would have to wield and exert influence. Expect a lot of resistance from power brokers — usually an indication good work is being done.

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at [ mailto:sholland@shawmedia.com ]sholland@shawmedia.com.

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