To Accommodate Major Party Candidates, Ill. Voters Will Have Less Opportunities to Vote in Primary

More than six weeks ahead of the Illinois presidential primary, a number of issues with the presidential candidates’ petitions may alter whether residents can vote as they anticipated.

Early voting in Illinois, scheduled to begin on February 4, is likely to be delayed because of the validity of several candidates’ petitions. The primary is scheduled for March 15.

Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio are among the major party candidates whose petitions are questionable. If the signatures are deemed invalid, these candidates will not appear on the presidential primary ballot for their respective parties, for early voting or otherwise.

For Cruz, the ballot situation is a further complication. A lawyer affiliated with Ben Carson’s presidential campaign last week filed a motion with the Illinois Board of Elections arguing that the U.S. senator from Texas is constitutionally ineligible to run for president due to his birth in Calgary, Canada. The lawyer, Lawrence J. Joyce, predicts the issue will be settled by the beginning of February.

In Vermilion County, in east-central Illinois, executive director of the Danville Election Commission, Will Nesbitt, noted that it was unlikely ballots would be ready for voters before February 17.

“It’s very unfavorable that this is happening due to the closeness in dates between presidential filing and objections,” he said, “but this is out of our office’s control.”

Lindsay Light, another election official in Vermilion County, said, “Until the State certifies the final certification to us, letting (us) know what the status of these objections are – we obviously don’t have a complete ballot.”

Compared to ballot petitions for independent candidates, petitions for candidates of major parties typically do not face much scrutiny or require many signatures. However, troubles with petitions have occasionally flared up.

For instance, issues with petitions left Mitt Romney and Ron Paul as the only filed primary candidates in Virginia’s 2012 Republican presidential primary. The filing foul-ups occurred at a time when the GOP nomination was still unsettled.

Early voting has been an issue that often faces resistance and set-backs, but is greeted positively by voters. Early voting appeals to voters who may not be in town or are otherwise unavailable on election day. However, the problems some major party presidential candidates are having with the petition process could complicate these voters’ plans.