Obama’s Ballot Challenges in 1996

CNN ran a long (for cable TV) investigative report after 10:00 PM tonight on Barak Obama’s successful petition challenges against Democratic primary opponents in his 1996 campaign for the Illinois state senate.

The video of the segment is not yet online, but a printed story was posted to the CNN website a few days ago.

Text: http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/05/29/obamas.first.campaign/index.html?iref=newssearch
Video: http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/05/29/obamas.first.campaign/index.html?iref=newssearch#cnnSTCVideo

Transcript: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0805/30/cnr.03.html

A representative of Chicago’s Better Government Association clearly states in the report that there was nothing illegal in the challenges. Also interviewed is disqualified challenger Gha-is Askia. Askia makes a few quick references to technicalities that reduced his 1000+ signatures below the threshold of 750 or so (the exact number is in the video). The incumbent, Alice Palmer, is not interviewed, but was apparently also prevented from entering the primary by similar means.

The reporter repeatedly implies that there was something underhanded in throwing off printed names (rather than the legally required signatures) or signatures obtained by ineligible petition circulators. In the video, Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass makes much of the connections between Obama and Mayor Daley via David Alexrod. He as much as says that Obama is a machine politician.

While the report contains many references to the hardball nature of Chicago politics, there is no attempt to contextualize the story in the larger issue of ballot access. It goes almost without saying that there is no reference to the partly successful Democratic campaign to keep Ralph Nader off state ballots in 2004 via the same sort of petition challenges. Or the ludicrously high signature requirements in certain states like Oklahoma, North Carolina, Ohio, or Tennessee. In fact, ballot access requirements are usually just about has difficult as they can be and then applied most egregiously against independent candidates. You could argue that Obama showed initiative in understanding  and applying the law as it was intended in a party primary election.

Kass evidently has an ax to grind and makes the whole thing come off like a hit piece. It’s good that ballot access is getting some attention, however inadvertently. The problem isn’t Obama, though.

[Submitted to Ballot Access News.]

Reporter: Drew Griffin

Chicago Tribune Reporter: John Kass

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Posted on June 1, 2008, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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