Daily Herald opinion: Clerk is helping candidates avoid costly ballot objections. More should do it.

This editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Daily Herald Editorial Board.

It happens during every election cycle.

Candidates file nominating petitions to get on the ballot, then their political rivals scrutinize those documents to find a way to kick them off.

Last week, objections were filed in several congressional races in suburban districts. For example, five of the seven candidates running for the 14th Congressional District seat have been challenged.

But in DuPage County, there have been no objections against candidates in countywide, county board and forest preserve races. Even precinct committeeman hopefuls face no petition challenges.

Representatives for the county clerk's office said this is unprecedented.

“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,” DuPage County Clerk Jean Kaczmarek said in a statement. “These changes have paid off.”

Collecting signatures and doing paperwork to get on the ballot can be a daunting task, especially for a first-time candidate. So at the start of the year, Kaczmarek held a workshop to help potential candidates understand the process for getting on the June 28 primary ballot and staying there.

Our Katlyn Smith reported that an attorney gave a primer on ballot access rules and some of the highly technical requirements in the election code. The virtual session included how to gather and file nominating petition signatures.

“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.

That's a noble goal. And if other clerk's offices are not doing it already, they should be working to clarify instructions for new candidates and offer workshops to help them understand the rules.

We understand why there are ballot challenges. Candidates who deliberately or sloppily allow mistakes on their ballots or simply can't follow the rules for running, they are not qualified to hold public office.

But at the same time, some candidates get kicked off the ballot for seemingly trivial technical faults, such as not having their paperwork stapled. There are reasons behind all the rules related to petitions, of course, but often these challenges are intended not to ascertain the veracity of the documents but to nitpick in hopes of sweeping an otherwise legitimate candidate from the ballot. And when it happens, the only tangible result is the disenfranchisement of voters.

Elections are an opportunity to hear debates about the real issues facing our communities, state and country. We want to see strong candidates emerge from the political parties.

We don't want candidates tossed from the ballot because of avoidable mistakes.

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