The Illinois Voter Restoration Project is a public policy and electoral accountability organizing campaign led by The Black Leadership Development Institute, BLDI, and housed at the historic headquarters of National Black Wall Street Chicago on behalf of historically disenfranchised registered voters in Illinois but specifically targeted most heavily in Chicago.
We organized this effort in February, 2010 after we analyzed the efforts to help Attorney Al Hofeld, Jr and other independent grassroots candidates in Chicago's and watched how those of us who were distributors and most importantly thousands of citizens who had their current voter signatures challenged against their signatures when they first registered to vote, disqualified on the candidates of their choice for Governor, State Senator and State Representative and other offices. The inbalance showed when signatures who were previously allowed to obtain ballots to vote on the one hand, were later disqualified as illegitimate on petitions of independent candidates for local elected offices.
At each hearing where signatures were challenged and ruled illegitimate and with our conversations of complaints to Board of Election officials we asked, "How many voters current signatures exactly matches the original signatures when they first registered to vote.?" This tactic by The State Democratic Party successfully disenfranchised several thousand voters to keep incumbents in office and ordinary citizens from being able sign petitions to vote for the candidate of their choice. The State Democratic Party through this signature challenging process deprived far too many citizens from their right to vote for the candidate of their choice and that must be remedied as we are now looking at a new petition process for future elections.
WHY DO WE NEED THE PROJECT?
The Voter Restoration Project is desperately needed to demand accountability and reform of the voter registration and petition signature process that now is currently favoring the major political parties in Chicago and across the State of Illinois and it's preferred incumbents and candidates.
The Voter Restoration Project would seek to eliminate the current process that allows the major political parties in control the "at will" ability to challenge the legitimate signatures of average voters seeking to see candidates of their choice on election ballots that are not in the favor of the parties of incumbents.
WHY THE SENSE OF URGENCY??
The process for candidates to file petitions for upcoming 2011 and future elections for City and State elections has begun and their again will be numerous candidates from grassroots communities and not endorsed by incumbents and established political parties and thousands of ordinary citizens again will have their legitimate signatures challenged in favor of incumbents -- UNLESS an entity like The Voter Restoration Project can intervene and work with key citizens groups, and election officials to correct the public policies and procedures to remedy this.
THE DIRECT ORGANIZING TARGETS AND STRATEGIES TO IMPACT THE CURRENT PUBLIC POLICIES THAT FAVOR INCUMBENTS OVER GRASSROOTS CANDIDATES.
Depending on the level of funding, The Voter Restoration Project could engage in training of voter registration groups on the importance re-registering voters in targeted constituencies for that their signatures are more current; The Project could target workshops for prospective grassroots independent candidates and supporters on how to register new voters at the same time they collect petition signatures so that signatures are current and match; The Project could continue its public negotiations and lobbying of Chicago and State Board Of Elections officials to change its internal operating procedures and guidelines as to not to favor incumbents over established party candidates and incumbents.
We think a publicly funded campaign started by local community organizers would help draw support from other funding sources and get real attention and generate public dialogue and even convince Board of Election Officials to take seriously our public policy recommendations on how their rules and procedures could be amended trough their "home rule" authority to make it easier for ordinary citizens signatures to remain on the candidates petitions of their choice and NOT so easily able to be deemed as disqualified. In addition, we would hope to engage the local election officials support in seeking actual legislation from the State legislature in amending State election codes that would allow Chicago and other election authorities to eliminate the easy process of disenfranchising legitimate signatures from petitions.
Mark S. Allen, Chairman
National Black Wall Street Chicago
Chairman and Lead Organizer Illinois Voter Restoration Project
Founder, Black Leadership Development Institute, BLDI