Free and Equal: Illinois Representative Jim Watson introduces electoral reform bill

Illinois Representative Jim Watson to introduce electoral reform bill

CHICAGO (Feb. 21) – Today, State Representative Jim Watson (R-97, Jacksonville) introduced House Bill 2854, a ballot access reform bill for Illinois elections. HB2854, originally proposed by the Free & Equal Elections Foundation, would allow candidates for public office an alternative to Illinois’ unequal and burdensome signature requirements by paying a filing fee in its place.

The bill would allow candidates to pay a filing fee equal to 1% of the annual salary of the office sought in lieu of gathering signatures. Illinois requirements for independent candidates are in many cases a great deal more restrictive than they are for political party candidates, effectively preventing independents from getting on the ballot. HB2854 would make the requirements equal for independents and recognized party candidates, so that Illinois voters have a choice.

According to ballot access expert Richard Winger, if the bill were to pass, Illinois would join Louisiana, Florida, and Oklahoma in allowing certain candidates to pay a filing fee in lieu of the petition requirement.

“Currently, Illinois’ ballot access laws disadvantage independent candidates by requiring them to obtain hundreds and even tens of thousands more signatures than their Republican and Democratic counterparts,” said Christina Tobin, founder and chair of the Free & Equal Elections Foundation. “A filing fee option will put independent candidates on a more equal footing.”

The filing fee option would also save the state money, by bringing in additional revenue through the filing fees, in addition to reducing the amount of time the state has to pay employees to verify signatures. According to Ms. Tobin, “the filing fee option will help Illinois in this time of fiscal crisis, while also opening up the electoral process to more choices and new ideas, producing more competitive elections and better government.”


Free & Equal is a nonpartisan, non-profit public-policy advocacy organization dedicated to election reform and improving ballot access laws in the United States.

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