Chad Grimm is the Libertarian candidate for Illinois governor, but he's not campaigning this summer as much as defending his spot on the November ballot.
As an outside-the-mainstream hopeful in Illinois, he had to submit five times the number of signatures as a candidate carrying the flag of one of the entrenched parties - Republicans or Democrats. And now, GOP activists are busy challenging the validity of the signatures he did submit.
"It's very hard to raise money when you can't say you're on the ballot," Grimm told the (Peoria) Journal Star. "This is just tying up the process."
Grimm is just one Peoria-area candidate in such a pickle. His running mate, Alexander Cummings of West Peoria is right alongside him. And Green Party secretary of state candidate Sheldon Schafer of Peoria is in a similar quandary.
To get his name on the ballot for a statewide office, an outsider needs to submit 25,000 valid signatures of registered voters. A candidate from one of the traditional parties needs just 5,000.
"The rules are written by the people in power ...," Kent Redfield, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Springfield, said. "When the issue is a challenge to the monopoly that the Democratic and Republican parties have on Illinois elections, clearly the rules are written to discourage third parties and independent candidates."
Libertarians turned in nearly 44,000 signatures and Republican activists challenged about 24,000. An official connected to state Democrats took on the Green Party's validity, questioning about 12,000 of nearly 30,000 signatures that party turned in.
To Schafer, the signature collection and the inevitable contest that follows are "an onerous process - way, way beyond reasonable limits" and a way to weaken grassroots efforts to build a voting-booth alternative.
Schafer, a twice-vanquished Green candidate for Congress, said with voter dissatisfaction with the status quo - Illinois' billions of dollars in overdue bills, public pension crisis and continuing political corruption scandals - outside voices are more important than ever.
"Third parties have always introduced different perspectives into campaigns and different ideas," he said. "As long as third parties are shut out of the process, it becomes more and more ingrown. ... If we keep doing what we've always done, you keep getting what you've always got."
The Greens took the ballot-access question to federal court this week, but based on history, Redfield predicts little success there.
"The courts would just as soon not referee an election contest," he said.