[Update Tuesday July 28th: No petition challenge was filed against Cook, meaning that he will be on the ballot in November.]
John Cook, a machinist from Freeport, has announced his intention to run for State Representative against Freeport Republican Andrew Chesney.
Cook gathered and submitted 251 signatures for a petition to put him on the ballot for November. As an Independent candidate, Cook had to secure a minimum of 210 signatures to appear on the ballot.
Any person interested in running for office must submit a petition to the Illinois State Board of Elections. Without a minimum amount of valid signatures, a candidate will not appear on the ballot.
Cook told The Voice he was motivated to run after a federal judge lowered the signature threshold for Illinois third parties and Independents to appear on the ballot. The April court case lowered the thresholds because COVID-19 made collecting signatures door-to-door more difficult than in a normal election year.
Cook has been engaged in Freeport civic life for years. He said that he used to write as a freelancer and sued the city over the attempted sale of the Carnegie Library several years ago.
Cook has not yet called a formal press conference to announce his candidacy.
On Friday July 17th, Cook announced on Facebook that his signature lists have been requested by Dave Krahn, Executive Director of the Illinois House Republican Organization, and John Fogarty, whose Twitter bio describes him as the general counsel to the Illinois GOP.
These sorts of requests are the first step in a process known as “signature challenging”. Signature challenging is a political strategy in which one candidate challenges the authenticity of another candidate’s petition.
Politicians who use this strategy attempt to argue that their opponent’s petition signatures are invalid. If they can knock off enough signatures to get the number of valid signatures below the minimum threshold to appear on the ballot, they can effectively take their opponent out of the race long before voters even go to the polls.
To be clear, as of writing none of Cook’s signatures have been challenged by the GOP, the Chesney campaign, or anyone else.
The window to file petition challenges with the Illinois State Board of Elections begins this week and ends next Monday.