I ran for Congress in 2016 and briefly in 2018 in the 8th district of Illinois. In 2016, I needed 475 signatures in order to get placed on the ballot. I gathered most of my signatures myself, causing me to have pain in both legs and my pelvis from a car crash. I ended up with 128 signatures for the March 2016 primary.
My major party opponent’s circulator challenged my petition and said that I did not have enough signatures and should be booted from the ballot. I explained to the Illinois State Board of Elections (ISBE) that I have severe disabilities and I wanted accommodations under the ADA, Title II. I asked for accommodations before the signature-gathering period, during it, and afterwards.
The ISBE denied me any kind of help and they said I was the first disabled candidate to ever ask for any kind of ADA accommodation. To them, this appears to have meant that the first person to use a law can’t use it. But that is not how federal law works. It is LAW from the moment the president signs it and it goes into effect.
The ADA is higher law than the Illinois Constitution itself and that means the ADA is higher law than the Illinois Election Code and everything in it.
I was encouraged to see a federal Court of Appeals state that 5,000 signatures is more than enough for a statewide race and anything above this amount is arbitrary and capricious. Graveline v. Johnson, 19-1992 (6th Cir. 2018)
Now, in my case, Illinois has 18 congressional districts. If you divide 5,000 by 18, you get 278 signatures being a reasonable amount for a non-disabled candidate in a U.S. House race. I obtained 128 and the Illinois Election Code does not require any candidate to have volunteers. This burden falls totally and completely on the disabled person who wants to run.
128 signatures is 46% of the amount a non-disabled person would need under the 6th Circuit reasoning to get on the ballot for Congress in Illinois. 128 was reasonable because the ISBE had no ADA coordinator to assist me. ISBE provided exactly no accommodations, no resources or technology, no exceptions to the signature amount rule, and has flippantly said by counsel that the ISBE is not covered by the ADA, Title II, when in fact it is.
I am suing ISBE again in Virginia using the authority of Nevada v. Hall, 440 U.S. 410 (1979), so that I may sue ISBE without any bogus defense of sovereign immunity. Further, the ADA’s regulations clearly provide that a state can be sued under the ADA in the courts of another state. 28 C.F.R. § 35.178. When ISBE rejected my disability rights, it did so to an officer of the Virginia Courts. It also did so to a U.S. Marine’s dependent who was disabled as a baby by the poisons at Camp LeJeune. Illinois had an obligation to treat me right, but like everywhere in the Midwest, disability rights and civil rights leaders are stomped on like so many cockroaches.
Indiana, for instance, gave the world Eugenics in 1907 in the 7th Circuit and this led to the U.S. Supreme Court allowing eugenics and forced sterilizations in Buck v. Bell, 274 U.S. 200 (1927). That line of hateful, disability-discriminating cases led to Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349 (1978).
Here we go again. Stump is another Indiana, 7th Circuit area decision that protected the vile ORDER of an Indiana state judge who forced a teenage disabled person to be sterilized without her knowledge or consent.She only found out after she got married and could not have children. That this case is now the main decision creating immunity for judges is absolutely disgusting. No judge who violates a person in the most intimate way can remain a judge. It should not have to take impeachment. Such a judge should simply no longer have immunity automatically, no longer have any kind of power to make any order of any kind.
Judges have turned federal law into a zone of discrimination even when Congress says the opposite. Judges have more power than Congress in a case, no accountability, and don’t enforce the law or the state and federal constitutions most of the time. Judge Posner’s NYT article by Adam Liptak on September 11, 2017, showcased how absolutely bereft of respect federal judges are for anyone, and their arbitrary and capricious decisions should have no precedential weight whatsoever. And in fact, they should be impeached at a much higher rate.
When judges abandon law and constitutions, we should abandon the judges. We should stop paying them when they violate the Constitution and when they squeal, point to Posner’s “the law doesn’t matter” article and let them squeal to themselves. But definitely do NOT pay them. That’s the realm of Congress and judges are only authorized to be paid on good behavior and you can see this in Article III, Section 1, of the U.S. Constitution. When judges abandon the law, they are not judges. And without being a judge through good behavior, a so-called judge must not be paid.
If it were up to me, I would pay judges who misbehave and hurt disabled people in eggs. Whatever the rate is for a judge, Congress should buy that many eggs and give them to judges so they start walking on eggshells before they violate the law or the Constitution or any disabled person’s rights.
In any event, I am excited that the 6th Circuit has made such a powerful statement about what constitutes a reasonable signature-gathering burden on a non-disabled person (since disability was not the issue in that case). Now, we need a statement from a court about what a reasonable burden is on a disabled candidate. And not just that, but what accommodations and changes are required of a state when all disabled voters already must be accommodated. I have been pushing for disabled candidates to be allowed to gather signatures by permission over the phone so they can use a polling company to do it professionally and quickly with an audit trail of telephone numbers called. The signature done by permission could simply be typed like lawyers do in court:
s/ Andrew U. D. Straw
As I have said, the ideal situation would be creating a simple signing mechanism on the voter registration site online so voters can go there and e-sign for the people they support. There is no reason for states not to do this because the fraud rate would be 0%. Only voters would even have access to the signing system. If you can register to vote online, check and change your registration and find poll location and early voting information online, then you as a voter should be able to tick a box stating you support a given candidate.
This system should be designed to work no matter what disability you have and the State should send a postcard to every registered voter before every election to give voters a chance to sign for the candidates they like to get them on the ballot. Arizona has already held an election online. Utah’s Supreme Court has allowed ballot access signatures to be gathered online. It’s now time to upgrade voter registration websites so they double as signing locations for candidates, who should merely have to provide their party, name, and contact information as shown on any petition today.
It makes no sense at all for states to be registering people to vote online, but then not using that same system to make it easy for voters to sign ballot access petitions. More people will sign than do now—including more disabled people who are shut ins—and that is the whole point, right? Inclusion. Such a system would also automatically only show the voter the candidates they are eligible to support based on district.
Supporting and accommodating disabled candidates is like every time government or private entities protect disability rights instead of scoffing at them. It ends up being a good thing with outstanding unintended consequences.