38 challengers give Illinois voters first choices in decades

38 challengers give Illinois voters first choices in decades

Alper Turan fled Iran 24 years ago to seek a better life for himself and his family. He wants to help his new home by being one of 38 candidates recruited by Illinois Policy to run for the Illinois General Assembly. He wants voters to have a choice.

Choices prompt more people to vote, so Illinois Policy recruited 38 candidates to give voters more choices about who represents them in the Statehouse.

The result: Compared to the 2018 election, an estimated 1.2 million more Illinoisans will have choices on their Nov. 8 ballots; for the first time in recent history, Republican candidates outnumber Democrats; and Illinois will see a record number of contested races.

Half of all Illinois House races were uncontested in the past 20 years. That is by design. Gerrymandered legislative districts and arcane candidacy processes and rules work to keep incumbents and the majority party in power by denying voters choices.

Elections with no choices are part of why Alper Turan fled Iran. He was recruited by Illinois Policy and is running for Illinois’ 13th House District to give back to his new home and show his gratitude for the freedoms he was denied in Iran.

“You don’t have the freedom of speech, religion and assembly that we enjoy here,” Turan said. “You don’t even have freedom of thought. If they find out your thoughts are not aligning with their ideology, you’ll get in trouble. Not just you, they’ll punish your friends, your family, your kids.”

Turan had opportunities for residency in other countries but wanted to come to the U.S., even though it meant being a refugee for several extra years. Since adopting Chicago as his new home, he sees growing issues he faced in Iran such as rising crime, burdensome taxation and inequity in the school system.

The 13th District hasn’t had a competitive election in 20 years. Thanks to Turan and other Illinois Policy candidate recruits, the 2022 elections will be the most competitive in more than two decades.

Of 118 Illinois House races, 82 will be contested on Nov. 8. The next closest was 80 contested races in 2002. In the state Senate, 32 out of 59 races will be contested.

An additional five races were competitive thanks to candidates being recruited for the June 28 primary election.

With the power to draw districts, politicians get to choose their voters instead of the other way around. When district shapes are manipulated, opposing candidates don’t bother running and suppress a voter’s choice.

Illinois Policy’s efforts to help conservative, liberal and independent candidates through the process of running for office disrupts the history of voter suppression. Getting to choose between two candidates should be normal, not a surprise.

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