Ladies, gentlemen, children of all ages, welcome to the greatest show on earth. Welcome to the monkey circus.
Belleville City Clerk Dallas Cook is too conflicted to perform in the circus. He gathered petition signatures for a Belleville city treasurer candidate and might be called as a witness, not to mention he is challenging the silverback male. He claims to have evolved into a higher being and frowns at the simian sideshow.
But in reality, folks, Cook’s no better than any of the other ancient ancestors. All the performers on all local election boards have conflicts and could potentially be booted, that is, if their opponents have enough votes.
Belleville’s election board members each have their own conflicts and connections. Mayor Mark Eckert is the leader of his “disbanded” political party. Alderman Paul Seibert is part of that same group. Cook is from the other group and in April is challenging Eckert for mayor.
None of them is without conflict of interest. None of them should be sitting in judgment of candidates from the opposing party.
But that’s the law in Illinois. Candidacies first get reviewed by election boards, and then can be appealed to a real judge.
The problem is that candidates are often eliminated by the technicalities that have little to do with whether or not the signatures were from registered voters who live within the candidate’s area. Flaws in page numbering, nicknames, ditto marks, notarization and affidavits for the candidate or person collecting signatures often get well-intentioned newcomers their first defeat well before the election.
Even when the challenges fail, they drain resources such as time and attention that should be spent getting to know voters. Age and treachery again defeat youthful enthusiasm.
Maybe newcomers should be able to navigate the technicalities of the nominating petition process before we entrust them with the complexities of fiscal policy and operating a government with our money. But maybe voters should get the chance to decide whether the candidates are fit for office — not two votes from the opposition.