In statement to the board of elections

SEP Illinois candidate denounces Democrats’ bogus challenge to third party candidates

The following statement is being submitted today to the Illinois State Board of Elections by Joe Parnarauskis, the Socialist Equality Party state senate candidate in the 52nd Legislative District. The body—made up of four Democrats and four Republicans—is holding a preliminary hearing Tuesday to review the objection filed to Parnarauskis’s nominating petitions by operatives of the Illinois Democratic Party.

On July 3, the Democrats challenged the validity of more than half of the 4,991 signatures submitted by the SEP to the State Board of Elections. The Democrats are employing the same antidemocratic methods as in their unsuccessful bid to bar SEP candidate for state legislature Tom Mackaman from the ballot in 2004. They have one aim—to exclude as many signatures as possible, using whatever technical discrepancies they can find or invent. In addition to the SEP, the Illinois Democrats are challenging the entire statewide slate of the Illinois Green Party, including its gubernatorial candidate Rich Whitney.

The Socialist Equality Party intends to wage an aggressive legal and political fight to place Joe Parnarauskis on the Illinois ballot. We call on all of our supporters and all readers of the World Socialist Web Site to send letters of protest to the State Board of Elections at webmaster@elections.state.il.us

This fight will require a considerable expenditure of funds. We appeal to all of our readers and supporters, and all those who defend democratic rights, to send contributions to the SEP election fund.

The objection filed by the Democratic Party against my candidacy is a serious attack on democratic rights. It has no factual basis and should be rejected by the State Board of Elections.

The issues involved in the effort to keep me off the ballot have implications that go far beyond the 52nd Legislative District of Illinois. The right to vote, the right to have one’s vote counted and the right of citizens to vote for a candidate of their choice have emerged as critical matters of public concern in the US presidential elections in 2000 and 2004, and in countries throughout the world as recent events in Mexico show.

It is ironic that this hearing takes place a week after the Fourth of July, which celebrates the birth of the United States as a democratic republic, and just days after the 42nd anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which lifted longstanding legal infringements on the democratic rights of African-Americans to vote.

There is another irony. The state of Illinois is proud to declare itself the “land of Lincoln.” But Abraham Lincoln came to prominence as the candidate of a third party that challenged the existing bipartisan consensus in favor of slavery.

Serious defenders of democracy believe that the electoral process should be about more than just who gets the most votes. It should be a forum for the widest possible discussion and debate on important issues of the day, including the life-and-death question of war. Yet in America, a country with a population of nearly 300 million, with the most diverse social, regional and political interests, there are only two main political parties, whose differences on these matters are, at best, minimal.

The entire political process is rigged to prevent the participation of third party candidates and narrow the spectrum of political choices. First, onerous signature requirements and early filing deadlines are imposed on independent candidates. Then petitioners are barred from privately owned malls, which have chiefly replaced traditional downtown areas, and are harassed by officials on public property. Even after overcoming these legal hurdles, third parties still face a concerted effort by the two major parties to exclude them from the ballot using the basest means to disqualify valid signatures from their nominating petitions. In addition to the SEP, the Democrats are seeking to bar from the ballot the entire statewide slate of the Illinois Green Party.

Over the course of two months, my supporters gathered nearly 5,000 signatures in Champaign and Vermilion counties, far more than the 2,985 signatures required to place my name on the ballot. The objection filed by Gregory Lietz and John Dreher—two Democratic Party precinct committeemen in Danville—charges that more than half of the petitions I submitted are invalid.

Our preliminary review of the challenged signatures demonstrates that this objection is not only factually wrong—it was filed in bad faith by operatives of the Democratic Party who knew that they were challenging perfectly legitimate voters. In the last several days my supporters, working under difficult time restraints and with an inadequate database provided by Champaign County officials, found that at least 180 signatures out of some 500 challenged by the Democrats were clearly valid. Based on these results, obtained from a review of less than one-third of the 521 petition sheets submitted, there is no doubt that the SEP has collected more than enough signatures to meet the state’s requirement.

A large number of the objections under the category “Signers not registered at address given” were transparently false. Our petition checkers were able to verify these signatures simply by searching for the address in the Champaign County voter registration database and then matching a name with a signature. It appears that those working for the Democratic Party did not bother to follow this simple procedure and simply rejected thousands of signatures out of hand.

The fact is the Democrats were instructed, as they were in their 2004 challenge to SEP state legislative candidate Tom Mackaman, to object to virtually every signature. For example, on sheet 90, our petition checkers overturned six of their seven objections, verifying that the voters were in fact registered at the addresses they wrote on our petitions.

What is this but evidence of wholesale and systematic election fraud? The objection filed on behalf of the Illinois Democrats is not a search for the truth. It is a politically motivated effort to exclude the SEP from the ballot and disenfranchise the 4,991 voters who signed our petitions. If such illicit methods can be used to deprive voters of the right to place a third party candidate on the ballot, what is to stop the Democrats and Republicans from using such methods against citizens on Election Day when they show up to vote?

The modus operandi of the Democrats was put on display in 2004, when former Champaign County Democratic Party chairwoman Geraldine Parr filed an objection to more than half of the signatures for Tom Mackaman, the SEP candidate for state legislature in the 103rd District. Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden recently stated on the web site Illinipundit.com, “If you were involved at all in the Mackaman case two years ago, you would have seen that the challenge was purely a harassment challenge. Fewer than half of the signatures challenged by Democratic Party Chairman Gerrie Parr were actually tossed. Those of us who reviewed them would have awarded attorney’s fees to Mackaman if there had been a legal provision to do so.”

When Democratic Party petition checkers were presented with voter rolls proving that the signers of Mackaman’s petitions were legally registered, they refused to withdraw their objections. Each checker was armed with a written guideline with instructions to sustain the challenge “for the record” even after the objection was overruled by the County Clerk’s office. Using these obstructive methods the Democrats dragged out this process for nearly a month until they dropped their bogus objection. This election fraud was carried out at taxpayer expense and, by design, imposed enormous legal fees and logistical difficulties on our party, which has but a fraction of the resources of the Democrats.

The Democrats’ challenge to Mackaman’s petitions was directed by House Speaker Michael Madigan using paid legislative staffers to review the SEP petitions, along with the Greens, the Libertarians and Ralph Nader. This was a direct violation of the state’s Election Code and the State Employees Ethics in Government Act, which forbid state employees from engaging in partisan political activity during working hours. Madigan blocked any investigation into this illegal activity by refusing to release the time sheets of his employees, and the matter was quashed by the state’s attorney general, his daughter Lisa Madigan.

Once again, Democratic operatives with the closest ties to Madigan are coordinating the effort to exclude the SEP and the Greens from the ballot for the 2006 elections. They are indiscriminately objecting to valid signatures in an effort to place a massive administrative burden on the SEP and preventing me from campaigning among my constituents.

Given this record of criminality the State Board of Elections should not accept any claim by the Democrats on face value. On the contrary, the assumption should be made that they are following the same pattern of bad-faith and frivolous challenges long carried out by this party. The State Board of Elections should throw out this bogus objection and place my name on the ballot for the November elections.