The Madison County Record Aug. 22, 2014, 11:51am

Green Party legislative candidates sued Illinois election regulators for ballot access on Aug. 13, claiming Democrats and Republicans rigged laws, rules, and district maps to exclude third party competition.

Tabitah Tripp of Anna and Gary Shepherd of Carbondale challenged the constitutionality of their exclusion in U.S. district court, seeking an injunction ahead of the Nov. 4 election.

Charlie Howe, who won 26 percent of local votes for governor in 2010, joined the suit as a citizen in the 118th district who wants to vote for Tripp for state representative.

Three citizens of the 115th district joined for Shepherd for state representative.

“The denial of a place on the ballot in an election that is imminent constitutes irreparable harm to the candidate, his or her party, and the prospective voters,” wrote Vito Mastrangelo of Mount Vernon.

"The moment of opportunity to campaign for and win election to this public office is transitory and cannot be recreated at a later date,” he wrote.

The suit connects to one in progress at U.S. district court in Chicago, where the Green Party petitioned for ballot access in July.

In that case, District Judge John Tharp posted notice that he would enter an order on Aug. 21.

In the local case, District Judge Michael Reagan has given the Greens four hours to submit a brief on the effect of Tharp’s order.

He expects another brief on Aug. 22, four hours after the State Officers Electoral Board resolves a recommendation to keep Green Party candidates off the ballot.

According to the complaint before Reagan, the state divides parties into categories of “established” and “new.”

The Green Party “is currently categorized as a new political party with respect to statewide offices and all other electoral districts except two Congressional districts,” Mastrangelo wrote.

He wrote that candidates like Tripp and Shepherd must collect a minimum number of petition signatures in 90 days. Election code defines the minimum as five percent of voters at the previous regular election.

The code required 2,399 signatures from Tripp, and 2,407 from Shepherd. He wrote that Tripp filed about 1,700 signatures, and Shepherd filed about 1,800.

On June 30, Mike Pavelonis of Harrisburg objected to Tripp’s petition and Gerald Compton of Carbondale objected to Shepherd’s petition.

Mastrangelo wrote that on July 28, hearing examiner David Herman recommended that neither candidate appear on the ballot.

In 2012, only one name appeared on the ballot in the 115th and the 118th, according to Mastrangelo.

He wrote that in each district, only 77 percent of voters cast votes for the sole candidate.

The General Assembly divided Carbondale, Anna, DuQuoin, and McLeansboro into separate districts, intentionally adding to the difficulty of gathering signatures, he wrote.

“Illinois voters desire more, not fewer, choices on the ballot, and a majority of voters disapprove of the two party system,” he wrote.

In the March primary, he wrote, 18 percent of voters declared an affiliation with the Democratic Party or the Republican Party.

“This was the lowest voter turnout for a primary election since 1960,” he wrote.

He wrote that 82 percent did not affiliate with either party.

Reagan has set a Sept. 2 hearing.

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