Nov 21, 2022 - Politics

The race for the top ballot spot in Chicago's municipal election

Photo of a man speaking into a microphone during a press conference.

Chicago activist Ja'Mal Green speaks outside Chicago Police headquarters during a rally in 2021. Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski/Getty Images

Roll out the (red) wagons. Today is the first day for candidates to file their petitions to run in the 2023 municipal election.

What's happening: In a Chicago tradition, candidates are expected to line up outside the Board of Elections this morning with paper petitions in hand and in cart.

Why it matters: Whoever files first is listed first on the ballot, giving those candidates a psychological advantage.

Yes, but: Once the petitions are delivered, candidates can file challenges against other candidates' signatures to try to bounce them off the ballot.

  • Chicago mayoral candidates need 12,500 signatures, so most try to double or triple that number to withstand petition challenges that can include checking legibility, city residency and, of course, forgery.
  • In 2019, activist Ja'Mal Green was challenged by fellow candidate Willie Wilson. He eventually withdrew from the race citing difficulties paying legal fees, a process highlighted in the remarkable docu-series "City So Real" on Hulu, which followed the 2019 election.

What he's saying: Green tells Axios he's collected 30,000 signatures this year, up from around 19,000 in 2019.

  • "It's our turn," Green says. "I learned that it takes a large team of supporters to pull it off, and now we are ready for whatever comes our way. "

The other side: Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who is running for re-election, is not lining up today. She said last week that she will file on the last possible day.

Between the lines: Candidates who wait until the last minute to file are usually protecting themselves from challenges, but Lightfoot's tactic could have its own psychological purpose.

  • Candidates filing on the last day are put into a lottery to be the last name on the ballot — which also stands out.

What's next: Signatures are due by Nov. 28, with challenges due by Dec. 9.


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