Andrea R. Wood
Andrea R. Wood

Illinois is trampling on the U.S. Constitution by excluding “new” political parties from the ballot unless they run a full slate of candidates, a federal judge has ruled.

In a written opinion, U.S. District Judge Andrea R. Wood held the Illinois Election Code’s requirement that new parties run candidates for every position on the ballot violates the right to engage in political activity.

The First Amendment, Wood wrote, quoting Clingman v. Beaver, 544 U.S. 581 (2005), “protects the right of citizens to band together in promoting among the electorate candidates who espouse their political views.”

Imposing the full-slate requirement on new political parties but not on their established counterparts also violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection, Wood held.

An established political party is one that received more than 5 percent of the vote within the congressional or legislative district or political subdivision in the most recent election.

Wood conceded the state has a legitimate interest in ensuring that a political party has sufficient support to be identified as a party.

“But there must be some logical relationship between the asserted state interest and the burden imposed upon the constitutional rights of those seeking to appear on the ballot,” Wood wrote, citing Summers v. Smart, 65 F. Supp. 3d 556 (N.D. Ill. 2014).

And she wrote that the state’s interest in placing only well-supported parties on the ballot is served — and served better — by the Election Code’s signature requirement.

A candidate from a new political party must submit a petition signed by qualified voters whose number equals at least 5 percent of the number of voters who cast ballots in the previous regular election.

Wood issued her opinion in a lawsuit brought by the Libertarian Party of Illinois and former state chair Lupe Diaz.

Other plaintiffs in the suit are Julie Fox, a would-be candidate for Kane County auditor who was excluded from the ballot in the November 2012 election, and John Kramer, her campaign manager.

Defendants are members of the Illinois State Board of Elections and Kane County Clerk John A. Cunningham.

Wood ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on Feb. 12. She issued the opinion explaining her ruling on Wednesday.

Wood has not yet entered an order setting out relief for the plaintiffs.

The lead attorney for the plaintiffs is David I. Schoen of Montgomery, Ala.

The lead attorney for the election board members is Illinois Assistant Attorney General Thomas A. Ioppolo.

The lead attorney for Cunningham is Kane County Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph F. Lulves.

Attorneys in the case either declined to comment or could not be reached.

In her opinion, Wood wrote that “the potential for unintended consequences” shows the full-slate requirement does not advance the goal of allowing only candidates from well-supported parties to appear on the ballot.

“Requiring a new political party to field candidates for each and every position so that it can appear on the ballot for even one position could encourage new parties to enlist strawmen candidates — who may be uninterested or unqualified to run for their designated positions — just to fill empty slots,” she wrote.

The case is Libertarian Party of Illinois, et al. v. Illinois State Board of Elections, et al., No. 12 C 2511.