Speaking out: Democracy is not a spectator sport, so get involved
At a time when voting rights are in the news, we should all remember that democracy is not a spectator sport. We can -- and should -- participate here in our own communities.
To know who our choices will be in November for local representatives to Springfield, the county, and for state executive offices, we need to understand that is determined by who qualifies to get on the ballot.
We can help by getting candidate petitions signed. That process in now underway; it's now a new ballgame in Illinois with the primary on June 28 instead of the traditional spring primary.
The time for circulating candidate petitions runs until filing begins March 7.
As citizens, you can be involved in two ways: You can sign those petitions if you are a registered voter in the district, county or state in which the candidate is running. Once you have signed a petition for a Democrat or a Republican this primary season, you cannot sign for any candidates in the opposing party. But you can sign for more than one candidate running for the same office.
Because of decennial legislative redistricting, be sure any petitions you sign are for the district in which you actually live. You can volunteer to serve as a circulator for candidates if you are a US Citizen and at least 18 years old. You do not need to be a registered voter in the District in which the candidate is running but, once you have circulated petitions for a Democratic or Republican candidate, you cannot during this primary season circulate for candidates in the other party or for independents.
With COVID still hanging over us and cold weather in the picture, there are many new ways to deal with petitions. Candidates and political parties often have drive-by signings where people can, literally, drive by and sign petitions near their homes.
I urge you to help the candidates of your choice. During these unique times you can be of great assistance in making our Democracy work. You can be creative since going door to door may be problematic at this time. You might set up a drive-by event by inviting people to a Facebook event on a particular date during specific hours, or set up such events through texts or emails asking people to stop by your garage or front of your home.
You can go to places where large numbers of people congregate and wear masks, like train stations. You could sign up to volunteer for events set up by political groups that facilitate signing petitions for multiple candidates, as the Northfield Township Democrats did quite successfully recently. You could get friends at multiple locations to do the same thing. Call candidates or party offices to volunteer or just call to see where you could stop by to sign petitions or to pick up petitions. Time is of the essence; most candidates would like to get their petitions done before end of February.
As the process moves forward, there are many ways you can get involved to make our Democracy work. You can make phone calls, help candidates be more visible by posting signs in your windows, yards or with a bumper sticker, and post support on social media and write letters to the editor.
I urge you to stay positive and not share negative stuff or things you don't know to be truthful. It's time to get rid of fake political news. When parade season comes around, if we have them this year, you can march in parades with candidates you support. Of course, candidates always need donations, too.
Most importantly, though, you need vote, and you need to get your friends, family and neighbors to vote come Election Day.
We each can -- and should -- do something to make our Democracy work.
• Elliott Hartstein of Northbrook is an attorney and a former Buffalo Grove village president. If you are interested in possibly discussing this topic further over Zoom with Elliott and others, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.