Rules for Libertarians Exceed Illinois Interest

     CHICAGO (CN) - Libertarians can sue over the more burdensome requirements that face new parties in Illinois compared with established parties, a federal judge ruled.
     Illinois Election Code requires new political parties that wish to enter candidates for office in a political subdivision, such as a county, to submit a petition "signed by qualified voters equaling in number not less than 5 percent of the number of voters who voted at the next preceding regular election," for that subdivision.
     In addition, new parties must submit a complete list 134 days before the election, naming the candidates for all offices in the subdivision in which it wishes to run.
     Established political parties are not subject to either rule.
     The Libertarian Party of Illinois challenged these rules in federal court, and U.S. District Judge Joan Gottschall refused to dismiss the claims against members of the state Board of Elections last week.
     She noted that the defendants had offered "weak and logically flawed justifications" for its requirements, while the Libertarians have a First Amendment right of political association.
     "The court concludes that the allegations in plaintiffs' complaint plausibly suggest that they have a right to relief, because the code imposes restrictions on ballot access that are more severe than necessary to achieve the state's regulatory interests," Gottschall wrote.
     The party claimed that Illinois "is the only state that has ever had a law requiring a new party to submit a complete slate of candidates for all offices in the jurisdiction in which it wishes to compete."
     "Plaintiffs argue that requiring a new party to recruit candidates for 'myriad races that it may be unable or unwilling to contest' is 'unduly onerous,'" Gottschall added. "Defendants, in turn, offer little argument as to why the burden is not severe as Plaintiffs allege it to be."
     Although candidates may choose to run as an independents if the party cannot fulfill the full slate requirement "being able to put forward candidates for political office is the sine qua non of a party's existence," the decision states.
     "Despite the alternative of independent candidacy, therefore, the complete slate requirement infringes upon 'the right of individuals to associate for the advancement of political beliefs,'" Gottschall wrote.
     The requirements also favor established parties over new parties, as "established parties often have no candidate who wishes to contest a particular office; their other candidates may nonetheless appear on the ballot," according to the court.
     Though Gottschall would not dismiss the claims against the board members, she found that the board itself is immune from suit as a state agency.