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Illinois Issues: Party Politics Is Killing State

by Jarell Corley, published

Party politics is killing America and Illinois. It is not enough to just elect different people into a bad system. We have to fundamentally change politics, and that starts with real open primaries.

The 2016 presidential election has opened the eyes of Americans who are more aware than ever of a rigged political system working against the voters.

Americans are fed up with a political party establishment more interested in their side “winning” than in what is best for the country.

This toxic brand of party politics is especially evident here in Illinois. Our Legislature finally passed a budget, and only with an eleventh hour veto override.

But like a villain from a bad horror movie we find that Illinois’ failure to govern just keeps coming back, this time in the form of a fight over allocation of education funding that could shut down our education system.

The inability of the Republican Governor Bruce Rauner and Legislative Democrats to compromise on even simple issues has people wondering “why has even basic governance become so difficult?”

The answer is simple: we have a political system controlled by the party establishments, not the voters.

The result is uncompetitive elections -- 63% of state legislative candidates run unopposed! -- that does not allow voters to hold politicians accountable.

Here’s the dirty little secret: almost all of our elections are decided not in the general election, but in the party primary election.

How does this happen? Most election districts in Illinois are so dominated by one of the two major parties that the weaker party in that district does not even bother to run a candidate.

Even where two major party candidates run against each other, the races are typically blowouts for the dominant party.

The primaries -- even though technically “open” -- disempower voters too.

Voters are forced to pick either a Democratic or Republican ballot. Want to vote for a Republican for Attorney General and a Democrat for State Legislature? You can’t do it in the primary, which is the only election that actually matters.

With an election system this intricately rigged against the voters, it’s little wonder that we end up with politicians who pander to the party insiders and only listen to the special interests.

What Is The Solution?

Giving voters, rather than the party establishments, power with a real open primary.

All the candidates would be listed on a single ballot, and all voters could vote for whomever they want. The two most popular candidates advance to the general election regardless of party.

That’s the way they do it in Washington State, California, and for Nebraska’s State Legislature.

Theses states are routinely rated as having the most competitive elections in the country. Politicians have to answer to all voters, rather than just a narrow base of party activists and special interests.

Wouldn’t that be a refreshing change for Illinois?

If Illinois really is approaching “banana republic” status as the governor claims - and it certainly seems it is - then political leaders of all stripes should embrace a political system that refreshes our democracy and ensures that the voters have power.

One way or the other, the people of Illinois are demanding change. If the political leadership won’t deliver it, then we must.

Illinois, are you ready to shake things up and demand a real open primary?

Photo Credit: Delpixel /

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