How Democrats and Republicans can better serve Illinois residents

Jun 16, 2017

illinois residents

As a hotly contested statewide election in 2018 draws closer, both major political parties in Illinois are ramping up their campaign efforts. Many Illinois residents with a desire to get involved in politics will look to major parties as a way to volunteer, support local candidates, and make a difference in electoral politics.

For this reason, it is important for the Republican and Democratic state parties to provide voters with easily accessible information on party platforms, leadership, and opportunities for involvement in the political process. ICPR assessed how successful Republican and Democratic state parties in Illinois and other highly populated U.S. states are at providing this important information.

 

State Party Platforms: How Does Illinois Compare?Illinois residents
Transparent party platforms are an essential tool for voters. At their core, political parties serve to organize like-minded voters behind candidates with similar values. Without a platform, voters may be left trying to string together what the Party stands for based on a large, and sometimes vastly different, group of candidates. In order to encourage voter participation, parties should have a clear, publicly accessible platform available online.

There is a disparity between party platform availability in Illinois compared to other states. The Illinois Republican Party’s website includes sections in its “About” page titled “What We Stand For” and “Guiding Principles,” along with a link to the most recent state party platform. In contrast, the Democratic Party of Illinois offers neither value statements, a platform, or policy positions on their website.

Republican and Democratic parties in other states often omit their full platforms, but do provide a clear mission statement or list of facts, values, or accomplishments. Of the five most populated U.S. states, the Democratic Party of Illinois was the only major state party without a platform, mission, or values statement posted on their website.

As an example, the California Democratic Party offers an exceptional model for platform transparency. Their website gives simple overviews of the party’s positions on a comprehensive list of policy issues, as well as a link to the full state party platform. The Florida Democratic Party also has a “Values” page that provides substantive overviews for most policy issues, providing voters with a sense of what the party stands for.


Platform Information Available on the California Democratic Party Website

Illinois residents 2

On the other end of the spectrum, less transparent state party websites suffer from one of two issues: meager platform details or difficult site navigation. For example, the New York Democratic Party’s website only offers brief statements on each issue, without any concrete policy details. While the Republican Party of Wisconsin has a link to their platform, their web site makes it difficult to find, requiring visitors to click through a precise path of links to finally get to the platform.

Official Contact and Event Information
Without having to form relationships with party leaders, individuals should be able to contact their party representatives to ask questions and get involved. Posting contact information clearly for local party leaders is an important tool for engaging voters in the process.On this measure, the Illinois Democratic and Republican Parties have different strengths and weaknesses. Both websites provide a list of party leaders and committees by region, so interested members of the public can see who represents their area. Facebook pages or websites are provided for some of these groups. However, neither party provides email addresses or phone numbers for those leaders, leaving voters with the extra effort of finding direct contact information.

Some state parties, like the Texas GOP, have a comprehensive list of party leaders with several forms of contact information. On the other hand, several state parties, such as the California GOP, have no list of state party leaders available on their website. This is a crucial area of improvement for any party seeking to involve voters in the electoral process.

One more facet of party transparency is information made available to engage voters in the political process. Specifically, state party event calendars, guides to volunteering, and guides for potential candidates are important resources. This information is important because it allows a greater number of people to engage in the political process without the need for insider connections or relationships.

The Democratic Party of Illinois has a comprehensive calendar of events from across the state, and the Illinois Republican Party hosts a calendar as well. Both provide sign-up forms for those interested in volunteering, and some links to State Board of Elections information about running for office.

A good example of information for political engagement is provided on the Indiana Democratic Party’s website. They list a comprehensive calendar of events across the state, as well as a list of resources for engagement.


State Republican and Democratic Party Websites
Top 10 Most Populated U.S States

State State Political Party
Illinois Democratic Party of Illinois Republican Party of Illinois
California California Democratic Party Republican Party of California
Texas Texas Democratic Party Republican Party of Texas
Florida Florida Democratic Party Republican Party of Florida
New York New York State Democratic Committee New York Republican State Committee
PA Pennsylvania Democratic Party Republican Party of Pennsylvania
Ohio Ohio Democratic Party Ohio Republican Party
Georgia Georgia Democratic Party Georgia Republican Party
North Carolina North Carolina Democratic Party North Carolina Republican Party
Michigan Michigan Democratic Party Michigan Republican Party

Why Accessibility to Information Matters
A lack of pertinent information can represent a significant barrier to political involvement for the average voter. Without measures like clear and accessible platforms or ways to contact party leaders, political engagement by those outside the traditional party structure becomes more difficult and less likely.

With a major statewide election in 2018 drawing closer, political parties in Illinois are one of many important outlets for local civic engagement. In general, Illinois political parties show some similarities to other states in terms of online presence and transparency. However, the lack of a public platform from the Democratic Party of Illinois, and a lack of email or phone contact information listed for party leadership by both parties highlights the progress left to be made. 

Small but important steps by both the Democratic and Republican Parties can be made to increase access to the political process for all Illinois residents, regardless of background or relationships with current party leaders.

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