A candidate or objector can file an appeal of an adverse electoral board's decision with the circuit court, subject to certain statutory procedural requirements. 5 ILCS 5/10-10.1. One of those requirements is that the party seeking judicial review must serve a copy of the petition on the electoral board and other parties. There is currently a split in the appellate courts as to what constitutes service "on the electoral board." The First and Fourth Districts have ruled that service on individual members of the electoral board is not sufficient to confer jurisdiction on the court, holding that the individual electoral board members and the board as an entity must be served. The Third and Fifth Districts, on the other hand, have taken a contrary position and held that service on individual board members is sufficient to comply with the Election Code.
This split was the subject of a recent Illinois Supreme Court decision in Bettis v. Marsaglia, 2014 IL 117050. In that case, the Supreme Court heard the appeal of the Fourth District's decision that the statute requires service on the individual members and the board itself. The question before the court is if a petitioner serves every member on the electoral board, is duplicate service on the board as ane entity also required? The Supreme Court said no, reversing the Fourth District and adopting the Third and Fifth District's position that service on the individual members is sufficient to provide jurisdiction to the courts to hear the appeal of an electoral board decision.
The Illinois Supreme Court first determined that the statutory language is unclear, leading to the split decisions in the various districts. Because of the ambiguous language, the Court noted that both interpretations were reasonable. However, the Court held that the Third and Fifth District's interpretation was the better one because service on the individual electoral board members accomplished the intent of the statute - that all necessary parties receive notice. Requiring the additional step of serving the electoral board as an entity would be redundant, in the Court's view.
The Court also noted that access to a place on the ballot is a substantial right not lightly to be denied. Adopting an interpretation that simplifies judicial review would promote ballot access.
The Court also rejected the argument that the petition for judicial review must name the electoral board and its members, finding that the statute does not require this.
Justice Theis dissented from the opinion, and would agree with the First and Fourth Districts that the petition for judicial review must be served on the electoral board as an entity.