At the start of the year, DuPage County Clerk Jean Kaczmarek held a workshop to help potential candidates understand the process for getting on the ballot and staying there.
An attorney gave a primer on ballot access rules and some of the more “hyper technical” requirements in the election code. Over more than an hour and a half, the virtual session delved into how to gather and file nominating petition signatures to avoid candidacy challenges that could knock hopefuls off the June 28 primary ballot.
“I never want to see any of you in an objection hearing,” Kaczmarek told the gathering.
The clerk credits those efforts for a primary unlike any other in DuPage: No petition objections have been filed against candidates in county-level races.
According to Pat Bond, the attorney representing the clerk’s office, the lack of a single county objection during a primary election season is unprecedented.
Even further down the ballot, would-be party candidates for precinct committeemen face no petition challenges.
Local candidates also appeared to have collected more signatures than usual, despite dealing with a compressed deadline and winter conditions, Kaczmarek said. Usually held in March, the primary this year was pushed back to June because the pandemic delayed the release of 2020 census data used to draw new legislative boundaries.
“We attribute this progress to simplifying and clarifying the candidate forms and instructions, along with providing workshops to educate candidates on how to avoid petition objections,” Kaczmarek said in a statement. “These changes have paid off.”
Every election cycle, the clerk’s office reevaluates the forms and instructions to make them easier to follow and complete, Kaczmarek said.
The first candidate petition workshop was held in person in 2019. Later that year, only three objections were filed with election authorities.
“My hope was to reduce the number of costly objections to both the county and candidates, with the ultimate goal of keeping candidates on the ballot,” Kaczmarek said in the statement. “I firmly believe that ballot access is a fundamental right. Instead of removing candidates from the ballot for technicalities, voters should have the opportunity to decide.”
Another workshop was held online in January. Seventy-five people watched it live. The YouTube video now has 285 views.
“I had observed candidate petition objection hearings in DuPage for years,” Kaczmarek said. “It really bothered me to watch well-meaning potential candidates being tossed off the ballot because of technicalities or the inability to afford an attorney.”
Every seat on the 18-member county board will be up for election because of new political boundaries. Republicans have lined up 24 county board candidates. Democrats have fielded 17.
Three of the six board districts will see contested GOP primaries. Democrats will have two competitive races on the ballot.
Kaczmarek, a Democrat, is running for reelection. Former Lieutenant Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti has launched a GOP challenge for the clerk’s post.