Last week, an Illinois trial court judge ruled that a referendum petition seeking to unify three Lake County villages into a new consolidated city was legally deficient because it was filed late and because the petitioner failed to timely published a mandatory public notice. As a result of the court’s dismissal, the proposed referendum will not be presented to voters in those villages on the November 2016 general election ballot.
A ballot-initiative committee named One Round Lake filed a petition in the Circuit Court of Lake County on August 8, 2016, seeking to place a consolidation referendum on the November ballots in the villages of Round Lake, Round Lake Beach and Round Lake Park. If approved by the voters, the referendum would have unified those three villages into a single new municipality named the City of Round Lake. The village governments would have been dissolved, remaining in name only as “boroughs” of the newly formed city, which would have been governed by a single mayor and city council.
The Illinois Election Code contains two different filing deadlines for public questions that have any legal effect (i.e., binding referenda). The general rule is that binding referenda petitions must be filed no later than 92 days prior to the election in which the question is to appear on the ballot. 10 ILCS 5/28-2(a). However, a second deadline applies only to a “referendum which proposes the creation or formation of a political subdivision” and requires those petitions to be filed no less than 122 days prior to the election. 10 ILCS 5/28-2(b).
The consolidation petition was filed only about 92 days prior to the November 8 election. The three named Round Lake-area villages and a few voters who reside in those villages filed an objection, arguing that the court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the petition because the petitioners failed to comply with the 122 day deadline. The objectors also alleged the court was required to dismiss the case because the petitioner failed to timely publish a public notice of its intent to file the petitions, and that it failed to include with its court filings an affidavit proving the notice had been published.
The petitioner responded that the unification of the three existing municipalities would not actually “create” or “form” a new political subdivision and, therefore, the 122-day filing deadline should not apply, even though all parties agreed the proposed “City of Round Lake” does not currently exist in Illinois.
The circuit court disagreed with the petitioner, and found that both the 122-day deadline and the public-notice requirement applied to the referenda petition. Because the petition was deficient, it was dismisssed.
Disclosure: Ancel Glink represented the Village of Round Lake Beach in this case.
Post Authored by Adam Lasker, Ancel Glink