Illinois voter suppression rampant thanks to few ballot choices
Progressive voices decry voter suppression in states such as Texas, but the very blue state of Illinois is guilty of rampant voter suppression using a system of maps and rules that defeat many challengers before they ever get on the ballot. A new effort is working to change that.
Illinois has a major problem with voter suppression, but it has nothing to do with mail-in ballots, photo IDs or easy voter registration. Illinois offers few ballot choices, so voters have little reason to go to the polls.
There are few choices because Illinois politicians designed the system to discourage competition and protect incumbents. Gerrymandered legislative maps that create uncompetitive districts and election rules that test clerical skills are all part of how Illinois politicians keep Jane Q. Public from running for office.
The cost is big: 1.7 million missing votes since 2012.
Plus, corruption breeds where there is no competition for public office. Corruption costs Illinois an estimated $556 million a year.
So Illinois Policy decided to do something about the lack of competition, and encourage competition in Statehouse races. The results are shaping up as potentially the most competitive Illinois election cycle in at least 24 years.
Instead of the average 64 races out of 118, this year is likely to see 82 contested Statehouse races.
Here are some of the candidates recruited through that effort. They, like Illinois Policy, decided that Illinois’ problems can be fixed if they get involved.
Kevin Munroe: Illinois House District 9
Kevin Munroe is the son of a Chicago police officer and a truck driver who saw labor issues from both sides. He’s an independent who sees the solutions coming from the middle more often than from the extremes.
“Why does Chicago and the state of Illinois have one of the worst unfunded pensions in the country? This is not an indication of good governance or government firing on all cylinders. We cannot solve these intractable problems with the antiquated and ineffective forms of governance that created them.”
Alper Turan: Illinois House District 13
Alper Turan remained a refugee from Iran for several years, passing up residency in other countries until he was able to come to the U.S. He wanted his daughters to have the opportunities available here, so worked a factory job until he moved up to becoming a professor in Chicago. He’s running as a Republican because he loves freedom, his adopted nation and wants to fight for even small change that opens the door to a better life for his neighbors.
“In my district, our rep has been holding this seat for almost 16 years without any contest. So, he would always get 100% of the votes. That’s not real voter freedom, because voters have no choice. It’s not about just running and winning. Even running in the city is winning because there are so many uncontested races.”
Edward Kornegay: Illinois House District 7
Edward Kornegay directs a prison ministry program that prepares people for life after incarceration. He understands crime better than most after his son was shot in the head during a carjacking while getting groceries. His son survived. Now Kornegay’s running as a Republican because he believes politicians have lost touch and he believes their jobs are to foster a peaceful society where people can pursue better futures for themselves and their families.
“So I believe that even my running for office is about freedom. I am free to do nothing, or try to invoke change with my own hands. It’s a free choice, and only by being free can you affect change in your life and the lives of your family.”
David Sheppard: Illinois House District 36
David Sheppard is the police chief in Robbins, Illinois, but doesn’t feel safe driving down the Dan Ryan Expressway, even while armed. But he is running as a Republican because he’s trying to be an advocate for his son, who has autism. His interactions with the school system and lack of resources have him wanting to bring change to Illinois for his son and others.
“Why political office? It’s simple. This fight has turned personal, but there are so many people in the same fight. The most powerful and important thing to me is my son. Now that I’ve experienced conflict with the district office over what his rights should be, no family should have to endure that.”
Patricia Bonk: Illinois House District 30
Patricia Bonk is an emergency department nurse from Midlothian who saw her share of child abuse in 43 years. She’s also seen the failings of the state’s Department of Children and Family Services. She is running as a Republican to change that.
“While I was standing in the lab in our clinic he asked if I had thought about running as state rep in my district. And for a minute, I just stood there and thought, ‘If I don’t say ‘yes’ now, I will never get asked again.’ So I said ‘yes’ because if this is what it takes to make a change in the state, I want to be part of it. I want to be the change we want to see.”
Jonathan Serrano: Illinois House District 3
Jonathan Serrano is the son of a Cuban refugee who served in the U.S. Army, worked for Chicago Public Schools and now runs a financial services firm that helps small businesses do business with the U.S. government. He said small businesses are the backbone of America, and he wants to serve them and his community by making the state more fiscally responsible.
“The political environment emerging from 2016, 2020 elections is what drew me to run. The issues. The lack of compromise. The lack of respect. The inability for people to disagree and still work together. We can do better, especially here in Illinois.”