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In some cases, political parties and/or candidates may need to obtain signatures via the petition process to gain ballot access. This section outlines the laws and regulations pertaining to petitions and circulators in Illinois.
In Illinois, established party candidates, new party candidates and independent candidates must all file petitions to access the ballot, though signature requirements for those petitions vary depending on the office sought and the candidate's political party affiliation. Petitions cannot be circulated until the 90th day before the last day of the candidate's filing period. The circulator's statement on the petition must indicate that the petition was not circulated until after that date.
Petition signature sheets must be of uniform size, numbered consecutively and bound together in book form with one edge secured. The header of each page of the petition should contain the same information.
Petition signers must be registered voters and eligible to vote for the candidate whose petition they sign. Signers may sign the petitions of one established political party for the primary election and one new political party or independent petition for the subsequent general election. When signing, they must include their residence address.
Petition circulators must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years old. They may not circulate petitions for more than one political party, established or new, or for more than one independent candidate.
The circulator must personally witness the signing of all signatures and sign the circulator's statement on the petition attesting to that. The circulator's statement must also include the circulator's address, age and citizenship information. The statement must be sworn to and signed before an officer authorized to administer oaths in Illinois.
Illinois has a reputation for having a strict State Board of Elections that at times removes candidates from the ballot after challenges to their petitions have been filed. In some cases, public officials have found it is easier to kick a candidate off the ballot than it is to put them on the ballot. Once challenged, candidates are usually either kicked off the ballot entirely or must focus most of their attention on their challenge cases rather than running for election.
For example, John Cunningham, a candidate who sought election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012, was removed from the ballot, appealed and regained ballot status and then removed again. Though Cunningham filed more than double the required number of signatures, hundreds were thrown out because his petition circulators came into question. He was first taken off the ballot because a paid petition circulator transposed two numbers on his address in the circulator's statement. After appealing, it was determined that the circulator's dyslexia was not a strong enough reason to take Cunningham off the ballot. However, when his case was brought to an appellate court, the court questioned whether two of Cunningham's circulators signed the circulator's statement in the presence of an officer authorized to administer oaths. After reviewing his petitions, the Board of Elections removed Cunningham from the ballot once again.In a local petition challenge case, Janet Hughes, a school board candidate in 2011, was disqualified from running for re-election because her petition was not bound together, as the statutes stipulate. The candidate's petition was thrown out in a unanimous decision by the District 113A electoral board after a public hearing.
- Illinois State Board of Elections, "State of Illinois Candidate's Guide 2014," Updated November 26, 2013
- Illinois Statutes, "Chapter 10, Section 5, Article 7, Section 10," accessed March 26, 2014
- Medill Reports, "Candidates' petitions subject to more scrutiny than their objectors’," January 19, 2011
- Daily Herald,, "Biggert to be unopposed in primary," February 2, 2012
- Chicago Tribune,, "Biggert now unopposed in GOP race," February 2, 2012
- Daily Herald, "Cunningham to face Biggert in 11th District," February 21, 2012
- The Beacon-News, "Cunningham’s ballot status back ‘in limbo’," March 7, 2012
- Chicago Sun Times, "Biggert challenger Cunningham’s congressional bid voided by court," March 15, 2012
- Chicago Tribune, "School board candidate removed from ballot after paperclip debate," January 5, 2011