Ballot Access

Reduced Required Signatures for Mayor from 12,500 to 350 or 700

The current requirement of 12,500 signatures to get on the ballot for mayor of Chicago is 10 to 25 times higher than it should be. Limiting political competition is the one and only reason for the excessive number of signatures to run for mayor of Chicago. Experts recommend candidates  file three times the number of required signatures because of the ease in which challenged signatures can become invalid. Since Chicago requires 12,500 signatures,  if candidates follow the advice of experts, they will file 37,500 signatures.

After doing research, Stone carefully chose 350 valid signatures to get on the ballot for mayoral candidates who pay a $300.00 filing fee or 700 signatures if candidates choose not to pay filling fee. Stone did not arbitrarily come up with his number of required signatures to get on the ballot. His number of signatures to run for mayor is the result of an analysis of other cities’ ballot requirements (explained below).

Stone does not believe in total access to get on the ballot. Total access would allow anybody to get on the ballot by merely requesting to do so. Stone believes in minimal ballot access restriction to eliminate people who just want to see their name on the ballot. Requiring candidates to collect 350 or 700 signatures to get on the ballot is large enough to attract only serious candidates for mayor, but not too large that it will keep qualified candidates off.

Typically hundreds of candidates will apply for a single job. Why not have 5 or 10 candidates seeking the job of mayor of Chicago? In their last municipal elections, 12 candidates ran for mayor of New York, 10 candidates  competed for the mayor of Los Angeles, and 10 candidates sought to become the mayor of San Antonio.

Avoiding voter confusion was the reason politicians previously restricted ballot access. Politicians asserted that if there were easy access to the ballot, a large number of candidates would burden and confuse the voter. The voter confusion myth was dispelled when 135 candidates ran for California governor after Governor Gray Davis was recalled. According to newspaper accounts, 135 candidates did not confuse the voters or cause them to vote for the wrong candidate.

350 to 700 signatures to get on the ballot for mayor of Chicago would not create a massive or confusing amount of candidates, but it would create political competition. Is there anything wrong with having more candidates for mayor touting their ideas to improve Chicago?

Table A lists the 10 largest cities in the U.S. The table compares each city’s population, number of signatures to get on the ballot for mayor, and the number of days each candidate has to collect the signatures. For example, Chicago has a population 2,853,114 people. A candidate for mayor must collect 12,500 valid signatures within the specified 90 day time period. Now you can compare what it takes to get on the ballot for mayor in Chicago with that of Los Angeles, New York, or San Antonio.

When you compare the number of signatures other cities require to run for mayor with Chicago, you can clearly pinpoint how ballot access is one of the ways Chicago and state of Illinois politicians purposely limit political competition. For example, the city with the closet population to Chicago is Houston. The city of Houston requires no signatures if candidates pay a $1,250.00 filing fee. If Houston mayoral candidates don’t want to pay a filing fee, they must submit 587 signatures to run for mayor compared to the 12,500 signatures Chicago requires.

Los Angeles has nearly one million more people than Chicago but only requires 500 signatures if a candidate pays a $300.00 filing fee, or a candidate must submit 1,000 signatures if a candidate refuses to pay a filling fee. The City of Los Angeles with one million more people than Chicago requires only 4% (filing fee) or 8% (no filing fee) of Chicago’s required 12,500 signatures.

New York city has a population nearly three times the size of Chicago. Does New York city require three times as many signatures to run for mayor than Chicago does? Hardly. Though New York city’s population is nearly three times larger than Chicago, New York requires only 3,750 signatures, or 30% of the 12,500 signatures that it takes to get on Chicago’s ballot.

The City of Phoenix has a population that is 55% less than Chicago, but Phoenix’s requirement of 1,500 signatures to get on the ballot is 12% of Chicago’s 12,500 signatures. Furthermore, candidates can circulate petitions in Phoenix for twice the amount of time (180 days) as Chicago (90 days).

Number of Signatures to Run for Mayor

City Population Number of Signatures Number of Days
New York 8,363,710 3,750 Valid Signatures 35 Days
Los Angeles 3,833,995 500 Valid Signatures with $300.00 filing fee 25 Days
Los Angeles 3,833,995 1,000 Valid Signatures if Candidate Pays No Filing Fee 25 Days
Chicago 2,853,114 12,500 Valid Signatures 90 Days
Houston 2,242,193 No Signatures Required if Candidates pay a $1,250 Filing Fee Does Not Apply
Houston 2,242,193 587 Valid Signatures 90 Days
Phoenix 1,567,924 1,500 Valid Signatures 180 Days
Philadelphia 1,447,395 1,000 Valid Signatures for Partisan Candidates 21 Days
San Antonio 1,351,305 No Signatures Required. Candidate Pays $100 Fee Does Not Apply
San Antonio 1,351,305 361 Valid Signatures Required if Candidate Pays No Filing Fee Unavailable
Dallas 1,279,910 473 Valid Signatures As Soon As the City Council Publishes Election Date
San Diego 1,279,329 200 Valid Signatures with a $500 Filing Fee 29 Days
San Diego 1,279,329 2,200 Signatures if Candidates Pay No Filing Fee 29 Days
San Jose 948,279 50 Minimum Valid Signatures

60 Maximum Valid Signatures

25 Days

Table A

A Democrat or Republican candidate for governor of Illinois needs 5,000 signatures compared to 12,500 signatures to run for mayor of Chicago. It takes 2/12 times the number of signatures to run for mayor than it does to run for Governor. The mayor of Chicago represents 2.9 million people and the Illinois governor represents 12.9 million people. The IL governor represents 4.5 times the number of Chicago residents and yet a candidate needs 2.5 times the number of signatures to get on the ballot for mayor compared to a candidate for the governor of Illinois. The same onerous and restrictive ballot access for mayor also applies to candidates running for city clerk and city treasurer.

The Number of Days to Collect Signatures

The number of days that Chicago candidates have to collect signatures is also a tool to restrict political competition. For example, for the 2011 mayor’s race, candidates can start to collect signatures on August 24. However, Chicago weather plays a factor in how many signatures candidates can collect. In October, the weather starts getting colder, and it starts to get dark earlier in the evening. Furthermore, in October the clocks are turned back one hour later. Less daylight hours in the fall reduces the amount of time candidates have to collect signatures. Chicago’s colder weather and reduced daylight hours is another reason why Chicago should decrease the number of signatures to get on the ballot to 350 if a candidate pays a filing fee or 700 if a candidate does not pay a filing fee.

Chicago should increase the number of days it allows candidates to circulate petitions for mayor from 90 days to 180 days. Phoenix allows mayoral candidates to collect signatures for a 180 days. Given Chicago’s inclement fall weather and reduced daylight hours, it is only fair that candidates have more time to collect signatures.

Chicago’s current 12,500 number of signatures to run for mayor and the cool, dark, fall Chicago weather heavily favors the candidate who has the support of the Chicago political machine. Even with the Shakman monitors watching over city and county governments, each Chicago ward still has 20 to 80 patronage workers ready at a moments notice to go out and collect signatures for a machine candidate. The machine can still crank out 25,000 signatures in seven days if it needed to.

Mayor Daley and his lackeys will tell you the number of signatures to get on the ballot is irrelevant because in the last two municipal elections no mayoral candidates were challenged off of the ballot.  The threat of a ballot access law suit was the real reason Mayor Daley and his minions did not challenge any mayoral candidates. By not challenging the petitions of candidates for mayor, the court has not had an opportunity to reduce the number of signatures needed to run for mayor. The fact that the 12,500 signature law exists means there is a possibility that someone can legally challenge a candidate based on this highly restrictive ballot access law. For once let our government be proactive, not reactive. Let our city and state reduce the number of signatures required to run for mayor to 350 with a filing fee or 700 with no filing fee before a lawsuit requires the city and state to do so.

The Number of Valid Signatures Per the Number of People

As with Table A, Table B includes the names of the 10 most populated U.S, cities, the population of each city, and the number of signatures each city requires to get on the ballot for the mayor of that respective city. The fourth column in Table B comes from dividing the population of the city (Column B)  by the number of signatures (Column C). The result is the number of signatures per residents for that particular city. For example, New York city requires one signature to run for mayor for every 1,115 people that live in New York city.

The higher the number of signatures a candidate has to collect per population, the greater the city has ballot access. For instance, let’s compare ballot access for mayoral candidates in Chicago and Los Angeles. Depending on whether a candidate pays a filing fee, it takes a candidate for mayor in Chicago to collect either 17 or 34 times more signatures per resident than Los Angeles.

A Chicago candidate for mayor has to collect one signature for every 228 citizens that live in Chicago. Houston, which has the closet population to Chicago, requires one signature for every 3,819 citizens if a candidate opts not to pay a filing fee. If Houston mayoral candidates pay a filing fee, Houston candidates don’t have to collect one signature.

The required number of signatures per citizen is a fair way to compare each city’s ballot access with one another. Chicago is five times more restrictive than Phoenix because Chicago candidates have to collect one signature per every 228 residents compared to Phoenix candidates who must collect one signature for every 1,045. Besides been less restrictive with the number of signatures required, Phoenix also allows mayoral candidates double the amount of time to collect signatures (180 days) for its candidates than Chicago (90 days).

Look what will happen if Chicago were to adopt Stone’s idea of reducing the number of signatures to get on the ballot. With 350 signatures and a filing fee required to run for mayor, Chicago candidates would collect one signature per every 8,152 residents. If 700 signatures were required to run for mayor, candidates will then collect one signature for every 4,076 Chicago residents.

Number of Signatures Per Capita

City Population Number of Signatures Number of Signatures Per City Residents
New York 8,363,710 3,750 Valid Signatures 2,230
Los Angeles 3,833,995 500 Valid Signatures with $300.00 filing fee 7,668
Los Angeles 3,833,995 1,000 Valid Signatures if Candidate Pays No Filing Fee 3,834
Chicago 2,853,114 12,500 Valid Signatures 228
Houston 2,242,193 587 3,819
Phoenix 1,567,924 1,500 Valid Signatures 1,045
Philadelphia 1,447,395 1,000 Valid Signatures for Partisan Candidates 1,447
San Antonio 1,351,305 361 3,743
Dallas 1,279,910 473 2,705
San Diego 1,279,329 200 Signatures If Candidate Pays Filing Fee 6,397
San Diego 1,279,329 2,200 Signatures if Candidates Pays No Filing Fee 582
San Jose 948,279 50 Minimum Valid Signatures

60 Maximum Valid Signatures

18,966

Table B

More Ballot Access for the Offices of City Clerk, City Treasurer, and Alderman

The number of signatures required for a city clerk or city treasurer candidate is 12,500. If city clerk and city treasurer candidates follow political experts advice, their nominating petitions will have 37,500 signatures. Limiting political competition and protecting machine candidates are the reasons why Chicago requires 12,500 signatures for city clerk and city treasurer candidates.

Jay wants to reduce the number of signatures for city clerk and city treasurer from 12,500 signatures to 350 signatures if candidates pay a $300.00 filing fee or 700 signatures if candidates do not pay a filing fee.

Each of Chicago’s 50 aldermen has approximately 60,000 people living in his or her ward. The number of signatures required to run for alderman is 2% of the ward’s aldermanic vote in the last election. For a candidate’s name to appear on the ballot for alderman in Chicago, the number of signatures range from a low 88 signatures in the 12th ward to a high of 429 signatures in the 19th ward. The number of signatures to run for alderman in the other wards falls between 88 and 429 signatures.

An independent candidate for governor, lieutenant governor, state comptroller, attorney general, and U.S. senate all need signatures amounting to 1% of the number of total voters in the last election. A candidate for alderman must submit 2%, which is double the number of signatures for that of candidates for higher Illinois offices. Furthermore, the Illinois General Assembly decided that Chicago candidates shall have no party affiliation. By law, Chicago candidates cannot declare Democrat, Republican, or Green party. Why should candidates for alderman be required to have twice the number of signatures than independents when the Illinois General Assembly decided that Chicago political office seekers must run as non-partisan candidates? Candidates in Chicago are held to a standard higher than an independent candidate without having the choice to run as an independent or run with a party affiliation.

Now lets compare the number of signatures it takes for a candidate to run for alderman versus the number of signatures that are required to run for mayor of cities in Table A and B. In some cases more signatures are required to run for a Chicago alderman than are required to run for mayor. For example, San Jose with a population of 948,279 requires 50 signatures to run for mayor, which is lower than the number of signatures to run for alderman in every ward in the city. Furthermore, the San Jose mayor represents 948,279 people and a Chicago alderman represents about 60,000 people.

Houston has a population of 2,242,193 and San Antonio’s population is 1,351,305. Yet, both Houston and San Antonio don’t require any signatures for candidates for mayor if the candidates pay a filing fee. Why is it harder to run for alderman in Chicago than it is to run for mayor of cities with populations much larger than what an alderman represents?

First Jay is calling for all alderman submitting the same number of signatures for their nominating petitions. Aldermen represent the people in their ward regardless of whether their constituents voted or not. Since each alderman represents about the same number of people, each alderman should be required to submit the same number of signatures with their nominating petitions.

Jay is calling for the number of signatures to run for alderman in all wards to be reduced to 35 signatures if a candidate pays a $100.00 fee, or 60 signatures if a candidate opts not to pay a filing fee.

The purpose of nominating signatures is to separate the serious candidates from those who only want their name to appear on the ballot. Too many candidates for alderman have had their petitions successfully challenged, which means candidates names were not allowed to appear on the ballot. Other candidates have won their challenges, but machine candidates use petition challenges to tie up their challengers’ time and money. The lowering of the number of signatures to run for alderman increases political competition and eliminates machine alderman using nominating signature challenges to unduly stop or hinder their challengers’ campaigns.