Nominating petitions to begin circulation on August 26, 2014. Petitions due at the Board of Election Commissioners in November

With as many as a dozen Chicago Teachers Union members planning to run for alderman in their wards and at least two significant candidates planning to challenge Mayor Rahm Emanuel for the mayor's job, the preparations for the February 25, 2015 municipal election in Chicago begin seriously on August 26, 2014. That is the first day that candidates can begin circulating their nominating petitions to get their names on the ballot.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis (above right) has been holding "Conversations with Karen" across the city in preparation for her run against Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the February 25, 2015 mayoral election. Above, Lewis answered questions during a public event at Beverly Woods on August 21, 2014 from TV reporter Walter Jacobson. To get on the ballot, candidates for alderman must have at least 473 signatures, candidates for mayor must have at least 12,500 signatures. Valid signatures are carefully defined by law. To sign a nominating petition for an aldermanic candidate, a signer must be a registered voter in that ward. To sign for a mayoral candidate, the signer must be a registered voter in the City of Chicago. Citizens may not sign nominating petitions for more than one candidate for any office.

The detailed requirements for getting on the ballot have given rise to a major industry in Chicago politics -- challenging signatures and the validity of nominating materials. Outsiders who wish to run for major offices are advised to get many more than the minimum number of signatures on their nominating petitions so as to ensure that their name eventually gets on the ballot. Among other tricks of the trade in Chicago has been the circulation of nominating petitions to get candidates on the ballot whose name is likely to take away votes from another candidates (for example, perhaps a "Rahm Manuel" would be running for mayor). The circulators of the petitions are required to swear under oath that all the petitions were signed in their presence, and people have gone to prison for lying about that.

Common practices for gathering fraudulent signatures, such as "round tabling", have become less effective during recent elections because of the scrutiny with which candidates' materials have been done. "Round tabling" was the practice of sitting around a table with a list of eligible voters and signing nominating petitions using those names, even though the voters were not asked to "sign" the petitions.

In the 2011 election, Rahm Emanuel paid those circulating his nominating petitions to get his signatures, since at that time (September - November 2010), he didn't have a political organization in Chicago, but he did have millions of dollars. Democracy is a powerful force, and the coming year promises to be an exciting one for democracy in Chicago, a city better known for political corruption than for democracy (with a small "d"). Substance will be trying to report on every step of each election, from the mayoral race to the individual aldermanic races.

A lengthy explanation of the requirements is now on line at the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners Web site. Key provisions for the current months (beginning August 26, 2014 with nominating petitions) are:

Signing petition sheets

-- Each person signing the petition must personally sign the petition. No one may sign another persons name or signature on the petition, including spouses or members of the family for another person. [10 ILCS 5/10-4]

-- The signer's residence address must be written or printed opposite his or her name and shall include the street address, city and county, except that the City of Chicago and Cook County may be printed on the petition forms. [10 ILCS 5/10-4]

-- Each petition signer must, at the time he or she signs the petition, be registered to vote at the address shown opposite his or her signature on the petition. If the petition is for Mayor, Clerk or Treasurer, such address must be within the city of Chicago. If the petition is for Alderman, such address must be within the ward in which the candidate is seeking election. [10 ILCS 5/3-1.2, 5/10-4]

-- Petition signers may not sign more than one nominating petition for the same office. [10 ILCS 5/10-3]

Circulating petition sheets

-- No petition sheet shall be circulated more than 90 days preceding the last day provided by law for filing the petition; therefore, the first day that petition sheets may be circulated for the February 24, 2015 election is Tuesday, August 26, 2014. [10 ILCS 5/10-4]

-- Petition circulators must be at least 18 years of age and be citizens of the United States. They need not be registered to vote nor are they required to be residents of the City or of the Ward in which they circulate petitions. [10 ILCS 5/10-4]

-- A candidate may circulate his or her own petition sheets. [10 ILCS 5/10-4]

-- All signatures on a single petition sheet must be signed in the presence of the circulator of that sheet. [10 ILCS 5/10-4]

-- Each petition sheet must contain at the bottom a statement completed and signed by the circulator of that sheet certifying that the signatures were signed in his or her presence, that the signatures are genuine, that none of the signatures were signed more than 90 days preceding the last day for filing the petitions, that to the best of his or her knowledge and belief the persons signing the petition were at the time of signing the petition duly registered voters of the political subdivision or district in which the candidate is seeking election, and that the respective addresses of the signers are correctly stated on the petition sheet. Such statement must be sworn to by the circulator before some officer authorized to administer oaths in the State of Illinois. [10 ILCS 5/10-4]


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