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Illinois GOP resorts to terrorism against Libertarians

A logo of the Illinois Republican Party.
A logo of the Illinois Republican Party.
Illinois Republican Party

It is a historical fact that the Republican and Democratic Parties will use their dominance in electoral politics and legislative seats to pass laws that obstruct other political parties, making it harder for them to get ballot access and raise money. For example, in Illinois a Republican Congressional candidate requires a petition with 337 signatures to get ballot access, while a Democratic Congressional candidate requires a petition with 1,314 signatures. Republican and Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate or Governor require between 5,000 and 10,000 signatures. But all Libertarian, Green, and other candidates require a petition with 25,000 signatures, and the State Board of Elections is notoriously unforgiving. This year, they threw the Green Party and Constitution Party candidates off the ballot at the behest of Democrats and Republicans, respectively. The Libertarian slate of candidates survived a challenge by Republicans.

But the Illinois Republican Party was not content to merely challenge the Libertarian petitions. They have taken things a step further in their quest to knock Libertarian Party candidates off the ballot in the November 2014 election. A story in the Chicago Sun-Times tells of private investigators hired by Republicans to intimidate those who have circulated or signed petitions to gain ballot access for the Libertarian Party. In one such incident, Julieus Hooks signed a nominating petition for the Libertarian Party in May. According to Hooks, “On or about July 20, 2014, I was exiting my house when a tall Caucasian man and a woman approached and startled me. The man had a gun, which was visible. They told me that the woman who had circulated the petition sheet that I had signed had violated the law because she had obtained too many signatures and committed fraud. I was then given a piece of paper and told to sign.” He signed under duress, saying, “I did not have time to fully review this document because the man with the gun instructed me to sign it, and I was afraid of him and what he may do to me if I refused.”

Sarah Dart, the person who circulated the petition signed by Hooks, was similarly targeted. She says that a private investigator named Carlos Rodriguez who works for Morrison Security in Alsip, Ill. contacted her, asking about a missing girl who had a mutual acquaintance with her. Believing there was a missing young girl whose life was in danger, Dart met with Rodriguez. When she met with him, however, he displayed a holstered gun, confronted her with a stack of petitions, and asked her to admit and sign an affidavit saying that the signatures for the Libertarians were obtained fraudulently. She refused, though admitting to being terrified by the armed and threatening liar. The state’s hearing officer later found that her signatures were legitimately gathered.

Morrison Security is owned by Sean Morrison, the Palos Township Republican leader. Morrison did not return repeated calls made by the Sun-Times, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner’s spokesman told the Sun-Times to ask the state Republican Party about anything having to do with the petition challenge.

Word of these incidents spread in Libertarian Party circles before any establishment media outlets reported on them, and others who had suffered similar episodes came forward. Among them is a DuPage County Libertarian named Warren Bent, whose story is told on the DuPage Libertarians' website. Bent was visited by a young Republican intern who came to the front door of his home on a Sunday carrying copies of the petitions with him. He tried to convince Bent that he had been defrauded on a petition. Bent declared that he did indeed sign the petition, and then began to ask questions of the intern that made him uncomfortable enough to drive off in his car.

While these events may be surprising or alarming to some, let us examine the situation logically. The use or threat of violence, fear, and intimidation to achieve political goals is the definition of terrorism. The state is an institution that has a monopoly on initiatory force within a certain geographical area. States ultimately maintain power and claim legitimacy based on force of arms, as any other basis either fails at establishing a state or allows people to peacefully either secede from or ignore the state. This force of arms is used to compel obedience from the population through the threat of violence, fear, and intimidation. Thus, any state may be considered a terrorist organization because states use the same methods that terrorists use. The Republican Party, like most political parties (but not all; the original intent of the Libertarian Party was different), is an organization that seeks to gain control of the state. The GOP may therefore be considered a terrorist organization as well. In this light, the strong-arm tactics used by Republicans against Libertarian petitioners are nothing novel, but rather just a extension of their activities to date.