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Brennan Center Wins Illinois Ballot Access Case for Ralph Nader

August 25, 2000

For Immediate Release
August 25, 2000

Contact Information:
Scott Schell, 212 998–6318

Brennan Center Wins Illinois Ballot Access Case for Ralph Nader

CHICAGO, August 25, 2000—Ruling from the bench today, Judge William Hibbler of the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, ordered the State of Illinois to accept contested petitions to place Ralph Nader on the ballot for the November Presidential election. The petitions had been rejected by the State Election Board because they failed to meet a new filing deadline. If the petition signatures survive challenge at the anticipated rate, the Court’s ruling will result in Nader gaining access to the Illinois ballot.

Judge Hibbler issued his ruling in response to a constitutional challenge to Illinois’ early filing deadline brought by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law on behalf of Nader, his vice presidential candidate, and Illinois voters. Judge Hibbler’s ruling rejected the State’s arguments in favor of the important interests of the voters of Illinois. Representatives of Illinois’ Democratic Party had joined the State in opposing Nader’s effort to gain a place on the ballot.

At issue in the Illinois litigation was a new and burdensome early filing deadline for candidate petitions adopted by the State Board of Elections for the 2000 elections. In the lawsuit, the State claimed to need more time to process challenges to Nader’s petitions, despite the fact that there has never been a timing problem in preparing ballots for Presidential candidates in 32 years under the old deadline. Judge Hibbler indicated in his ruling that the State’s interest failed to overcome the harm done to Illinois’ voters.

Ralph Nader is presently the leading third party candidate for President; he has demonstrated enough support to be on the ballot in more than 40 states. Nationwide, he is polling between 6 and 8 percent, and in Illinois his campaign has collected almost 40,000 signatures from citizens supporting his candidacy, thousands more than required by state election law. However, many of these signatures were collected after the new filing deadline and were not originally accepted by the State Board of Elections. This victory orders the state to accept the signatures, almost assuring Nader a place on November’s ballot.

The right to vote is more valuable when citizens are able to vote for the candidate of their choice. The Brennan Center Voter Choice Project works to make this fundamental truth a reality. Through studying ballot access systems and producing publications such as Voter Choice 2000, and through litigation when necessary, the Center works to increase access to the ballot for third party and independent candidates. The Center is currently litigating cases in South Dakota and North Carolina in support of efforts by third party candidate Ralph Nader to gain access to these state ballots. Even within the major parties, insurgent candidates are sometimes denied ballot access, as was the case with John McCain in New York State who was placed on the ballot only after a successful Brennan Center lawsuit.

For more information about this litigation, other work of the Voter Choice Project or the Brennan Center in general, please contact Scott Schell at 212.998.6318.