SPRINGFIELD — A Republican state senator from southern Illinois has introduced a bill that would make it easier for independent and third-party candidates to get on the ballot.
The proposal from Sen. Kyle McCarter, a conservative from Lebanon, comes after progressive Bloomington physician David Gill was removed from the November ballot for failing to collect enough signatures on his nominating petitions to earn a spot as an independent candidate in the 13th Congressional District.
Gill, who had run unsuccessfully four previous times as a Democrat, gathered fewer than 8,500 of the 10,754 valid petition signatures he needed. But his would-be opponents, incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis of Taylorville and Democratic challenger Mark Wicklund of Decatur, each had to gather fewer than 740 signatures because they were candidates of established parties.
McCarter, who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Rep. John Shimkus of Collinsville in the March Republican primary in the 18th District, said he wasn’t inspired by Gill’s case, instead calling it “common sense” to have the same requirements for all candidates.
McCarter said he believes it’s unfair for independent candidates to have to collect more signatures than major-party candidates.
He added that some voters have a hard time identifying with the traditional political parties and should have other options.
The number of signatures required to be on the ballot varies by office and is based on the number of people who cast ballots in the previous election.
For example, in races for U.S. Congress, independent or third-party candidates in Illinois have to gather signatures from at least 5 percent but not more than 8 percent of the number of people who voted in the previous general election for that seat.
Congressional candidates from the two major parties, meanwhile, only have to gather signatures from 0.5 percent of the number of people in their party who voted in the preceding primary in the district.
As a result, Gill was required to collect nearly 15 times as many signatures as Davis and Wicklund.
Spokesmen for the state Democratic and Republican parties did not respond Friday to requests for comment on McCarter’s bill.
During a hearing on Gill’s lawsuit in federal court in August, lawyers representing the Illinois State Board of Elections argued the state sets signature requirements because it has an interest in preventing voter confusion and ballot overcrowding.
Gill’s legal challenge didn’t succeed in getting him on the November ballot, but his lawsuit challenging the current state law is still pending before the U.S. District Court in Springfield.
This isn’t the first time lawmakers have proposed lowering the signature requirement for independent and third-party candidates.
For example, Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, and Rep. Mike Fortner, R-West Chicago, introduced bills in 2013, but neither made it to the Senate or House floor for a vote.