Chicagoans Say New Law Hurts Republicans

     CHICAGO (CN) - Voters say a new Illinois has made it nearly impossible for Republicans to get on the ballot by requiring signature collection for primary elections.
     Anthony Navarro and 15 other Chicago residents sued three Chicago election commissioners, Langdon Neal, Richard Cowen and Marisel Hernandez, in federal court.
     In 2011, Illinois changed its election laws regarding candidates appointed by party leaders to fill a vacancy, which could occur if a nominee dies or withdraws, or if no name appeared on the primary ballot.
     If there had not been a previous candidate, the state now requires appointees to collect voter signatures for inclusion on the general election ballot. The candidate must collect 1,000 for nomination to the Illinois Senate, or 500 signatures for nomination to the Illinois House, within 75 days.
     But voters say this "new requirement ... imposes a burden so great that not a single person appointed to fulfill a Republican legislative nomination vacancy in the city of Chicago was able to produce the requisite number of signatures," according to the complaint (emphasis in original). "It is this new requirement that is objected to as presenting a constitutionally impermissible impediment to the Voters-Voter-Plaintiffs who reside the relevant districts."
     There are allegedly so few Republican voters in some Chicago districts that "a successful petition passer would have to track down nearly 100 percent of all voters in Republican primaries and who still lived in those Districts within 75 days in order to satisfy the new requirement."
     Voters say that "the new requirement works to eviscerate the ability of the Voter-Plaintiffs from the impacted districts to exercise their rights, guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to 'band together in promoting among the electorate candidates who espouse their political views. Voter-Plaintiffs will be unable to cast a ballot for a major party candidate of their choice."
     While the plaintiffs acknowledge that Illinois has "legitimate interest in avoiding ballot congestion," they claim the state has no reason to impose a new, stricter than the previous requirement.
     "The right of the voters to cast a vote effectively is fundamental, requiring the state to demonstrate a compelling interest and use of least drastic means in achieving its end," according to the complaint. "The state has made no such showing of having a compelling interest in the instant matter, and has adopted a means whose demonstrated impact has been drastic."
     The plaintiffs seek a permanent injunction prohibiting the Chicago election commissioners from enforcing the new signature rule and ordering them to certify seven Republican candidates for the general election ballot in November 2012.
     They are represented by David Ratowitz in Addison, Ill.
     Navarro is joined in the complaint by David Navarro, Scott Campbell, John Lynch, Connie Abels, Justin Goldberg, Juan Diaz, Xavier Roman, Paul Minervino, Kimberly Small, Suzanne Devane, Carl Segvich, Darnell Macklin, Joseph Hedrick, Chris Cleveland and George MaAyteh.