Last Friday, a Cook County Circuit Judge upheld the decision of the Melrose Park Municipal Officers Electoral Board removing a candidate for village trustee from the ballot because he bound his 69-page nominating petitions with a black metal binder clip. You can read the opinion here.
An objector had filed an objection to the trustee-candidate's nomination papers alleging that the candidate should be removed from the ballot for failure to comply with the provisions of Section 10-4 of the Election Code that require nominating petitions to be securely fastened. The relevant language of that statute is as follows:
Such sheets, before being presented to the electoral board or filed with the proper officer of the electoral district or division of the state or municipality, as the case may be, shall be neatly fastened together in book form, by placing the sheets in a pile and fastening them together at one edge in a secure and suitable manner, and the sheets shall then be numbered consecutively. The sheets shall not be fastened by pasting them together end to end, so as to form a continuous strip or roll. 10 ILCS 5/10-4.
The circuit court in the Melrose Park case considered two appellate court cases interpreting section 10-4 and its fastener requirement. In one of those cases, the First District Appellate Court ruled that a candidate could stay on the ballot after binding his “six to eight” pages of nomination papers with a large metal paperclip. That ruling was based on the finding by the electoral board that the nomination papers could not be removed from the binding without removing the paper clip, thus showing strict compliance with section 10-4 of the Election Code. In the other case, the Third District Appellate Court ruled that a candidate could not stay on the ballot because his papers were not securely fastened where he used a paper clip.
In the Melrose Park opinion, the court determined that the electoral board found that “the uncontroverted evidence is that it is possible to pull the pages apart without removing the clip.” The electoral board's finding was based on several demonstrations by the objector's attorney before the board that showed papers could be removed from the stack of 69 sheets without removing the binder clip, even though the sheets did not fall apart when shaken back and forth by the candidate. The court concluded that it would not disturb the electoral board's decision as it was not against the manifest weight of the evidence.
Currently, there is no bright-line rule that paperclips (or binder clips) are prima facia evidence of a “secure and suitable” fastening. As a result, electoral boards will need to consider these type of objections on a case-by-case basis to determine whether a binder clip or paperclip is factually and actually a “secure and suitable manner” of fastening the nomination papers, as required by Section 10-4 of the Election Code.
Candidates running for office may want to consider the potential risk that they could be removed from the ballot for using one of these type of fasteners, should an objection be filed and an electoral board determines that the fastener was not "secure and suitable."
Full disclosure: Ancel Glink represented the objector in this case.
Post Authored by Adam Lasker, Ancel Glink