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Candidacy starts with having  the write stuff in petitions

Jeff Ward

Jeff Ward

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Updated: August 31, 2012 6:07AM

C’mon folks, do we really need to go over this again?

If you’re gonna run for office — and considering some of the mopes we’re stuck with, you really should — you’ve got to get your nominating petitions right. The incumbents already know that the quickest way to an easy victory is to fling your foe from the ballot.

Thus, petition challenges have become high political sport.

To wit, before the gavel could even come down, 33rd State Senate District Libertarian candidate Doug Marks threw in the towel. It would seem his volunteers didn’t understand the concept of boundaries because 850 out-of-district signatures brought him below the 3,000 threshold.

Of course, the fact that opponent Karen McConnaughay’s minions felt the need to take on a Libertarian is really sad. Apparently, even her supporters don’t think very much of her candidacy.

Marks is talking about taking the write-in route which gives a whole new meaning to the word “futility.”

And it happens to Republican regulars, too. Twenty-second State Senate District GOP challenger Cary Collins, should thank his lucky stars he managed to survive incumbent Mike Noland’s petition challenge by a scant four signatures.

He too fell prey to that pesky district boundary problem as well as forgetting that folks who pulled a Democratic primary ballot cannot subsequently sign off on the Republican.

Those 1,004 safe signatures give a whole new meaning to the adage, “by the seat of your pants.”

The sad thing is, Noland couldn’t even get this one right. Not only did he fail to prevail, but you don’t have Elgin Township Democrat Chairman Frank Imhoff do your dirty work, you’re supposed to have a “regular citizen” file the objection.

Noland’s said he welcomed Collins’ continued candidacy because it gives voters a chance to learn more the about issues. And if you believe that one, I’ve got a bridge on Kimball Street I’m willing to let go of cheap.

Though the methods of dismantling a nominating petition are many, our candidates violated the cardinal rule: Always procure three times the required amount of signatures.

I know legal experts will tell you it’s double, and I really don’t care how labor intensive the process can be. The bottom line is, if you want your ballot spot assured, the best defense is sheer volume.

When Tim Elenz ran in the 22nd District Democratic primary, he dropped 3,600 signatures on the Illinois State Board of Elections. Noland’s folks knew they couldn’t quash enough of them so they didn’t even try.

But why trust me? An ISBE expert provided me with the following sage advice.

You cannot have too many signatures. Some offices have a cap, but you will not be thrown off the ballot for going over that limit.

While you definitely want volume, you also want your petitions to look like they were done by a professional. If it looks like your two year-old daughter went to town, you’re probably in trouble.

You’re far better off working from a voter list than you are working the train station. To quote a famous movie, random signatures are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.

“If you train your people and get good advice,” he said, “You’re much more likely to survive a challenge.”

Perhaps it would’ve behooved Marks and Collins to provide their eager volunteers with clearly delineated district maps.

Lastly, our ISBE friend noted, “Iffy things always go to the candidate.”

Yes, the rules are tilted toward incumbents because incumbents make the rules. But having sat through some petition challenges, it’s clear that the ISBE and your local county clerk lean toward keeping candidates on the ballot.

Do your due diligence and you’ll be fine.

Here’s the thing. If you can’t get this relatively simple part of the process right, then why the heck should anyone vote you? It’s like a college degree. Most employers don’t care about what you studied, they want to know if you’re capable of completing something.

As much as Noland irritates me, the fact that Collins came in a mere 400 signatures over the minimum makes me want to smack him. He invited that challenge and he’s fortunate to have survived it.

And good luck to Mr. Marks with the whole write-in thing.

So class, I hope you got it this time because I really don’t want to have to go over it again. The process of running for office starts with a solid nominating petition. If you screw that up, it can end with it, too.

You can reach Jeff at

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