Why the Approach to Non-Partisan Elections is Important to the Citizens of the Village of Park Forest

Non-Partisan Local Government of Park Forest
Non-Partisan Local Government of Park Forest. (SUPPLIED)

Editor’s Note: We hope this is only the first of many articles from the Park Forest Nonpartisan Local Government Committee to help educate the public on how elections work and can work better, in Park Forest.

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Many communities hold non-partisan elections. However, Park Forest’s approach to non-partisan elections is unique, in that candidates running for elected offices in Park Forest are asked to pledge (upon signature of agreement) that they will run as “individuals,” rather than as part of a “slate”—as well as pledge that they will not accept endorsements from political parties or groups that endorse more than one candidate.

In the recent April 2 election, the Rich Township Democratic Organization (RTDO) endorsed several candidates running for elected office in the area, including candidates running for elected office in Park Forest. This is perhaps the first time since the Non-Partisan Committee (NPC) was established in 1955, that a political entity has endorsed a slate of candidates in a Park Forest local election. 

Just look at nearby communities to see what is different about the Park Forest approach.

Cost of Campaigns

Agreement to the non-partisan rules has in effect reduced the cost of running for elected office in Park Forest. In return for abiding by these rules, the NPC organizes several candidate forums, allowing for voter contact and engagement without spending money. 

Candidates in nearby communities spend much more money than Park Forest candidates. 

The following table illustrates spending in recent mayoral races, based on candidate reports to the Illinois Election Board:

CommunityElection YearNumber of CandidatesSpendingBallots CastRegistered Voters
Park Forest20193$7,1232,96517,118
Country Club Hills20193$74,5953,10812,647
Chicago Heights20191$135,4844,04617,328
Matteson20174$56,4333,32214,458

This is just an example of the many municipal, along with school board races, whereas tens of thousands of dollars are spent convincing citizens to hand over the power to tax and spend.

Impact of High Election Spending

Why do candidates and their supporters contribute so much money?  Candidates spending their own money may be apt to indulging in nepotism, hiring their relatives or friends.  Park Forest has a policy forbidding nepotism.

Aside from nepotism, other forms of favoritism may impact employment and contracts. Candidates who need money to win can find plenty of potential donors. Lobbyists, law firms, insurance agencies, political parties, civil engineering companies, and realtor organizations often have needs that can be met by controlling municipal boards, as well as school boards.

Slating

Slates may include some less-qualified candidates. Candidates who are elected as part of a slate will be expected to vote with the leaders of that slate.  Slates are determined by a few. By running as individuals, candidates are chosen on their merit by the voters and do not “owe” their votes to other slated and elected officials.

How Does the Non-partisan Committee (NPC) Contribute to Good Government in Park Forest? 

  • NPC reduces the cost of campaigns by providing exposure to the public at forums (in person or on TV). 
  • NPC affords the opportunity to provide a 300-word candidate statement that is distributed at forums and publicized elsewhere.
  • NPC provides voter lists from Cook and Will Counties to the respective candidates.

Due to the concerted efforts of the NPC, elected officials are thus free of pressure from special interest groups; and thereby, can vote on issues as individuals without undue pressure from leaders of a slate—provided that candidates adhere to the virtues of said rules as agreed upon.

This is a release from the Park Forest Nonpartisan Local Government Committee.