No Race in DeKalb’s 5th Ward

Gavin Wilson’s candidacy is dead. Running for alderman of the 5th Ward, he was denied a place on the ballot because his petitions lacked the words “Consolidated” and “April 17,” the name and date of the election. The result is that two of the four wards up for grabs now in DeKalb, the 5th and the 7th, do not have competitive aldermanic races (only one person filed in the 7th, which is one of two NIU student-dominated wards).

Wilson blames two-thirds of the local election board, comprised of the mayor, city clerk and the 3rd Ward alderman (who voted in Wilson’s favor) for supporting perfect paperwork over competitive races. He’s got a point but the real culprits here are the cumbersome Illinois candidacy requirements and the shameless way they can be exploited by an experienced opposition, especially an incumbent candidate.

The Illinois State Board of Elections Candidate’s Guide is 81 pages long, contains about three dozen forms and suggests that “all prospective candidates consult with competent legal counsel when preparing their nomination papers.” This is a prime reason why more regular joes don’t run for office–and when they do, opposing candidates’ friends–or campaign workers–take them out routinely by filing objections over minor filing errors.

Illinois can and should amend the rules so that ballot access is only blocked when there are real problems such as fraud. When it comes to minor errors, candidates should be notified and given the opportunity to correct them.

Full disclosure: I’ve known Gavin Wilson for several years and think he would be a fine alderman. I hope he considers a write-in campaign, although as a resident of the 4th Ward I could not vote for him myself.