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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Appellate Court Returns County Board Candidates to Ballot

The Illinois Appellate court recently considered an appeal filed by candidates for county office whose nomination papers had been invalidated by an electoral board based on an allegedly improper process for filling candidate vacancies.  The appellate court reversed that decision and ordered the candidates' names to be returned to the ballot for the November election in Carlasare v. Will County Officers Electoral Board, (September 19, 2012).  
Following the March 2012 primary election, multiple districts in Will County were left with vacancies in nomination for the Will County Board.  The Election Code provides that where no candidate is set forth on the primary election, a district committee for each county board district must designate a candidate.  Pursuant to this statute, the Democratic Central Committee selected candidates to fill the vacant spots for Will County Board in a meeting in May, 2012.  Thereafter, the selected candidates obtained the required signatures and filed the necessary nomination forms to run for the county board.  
 The following month, a group of objectors filed a challenge alleging that the nomination papers of the candidates were invalid.  The objectors argued that the designation process was fatally flawed because a proper district committee was not formed to make the designation.  They alleged that the precinct committeemen for each district were not given reasonable and timely notice that candidates would be selected during the May meeting.  Additionally, they argued that the procedure was improper because the central committee chairman served as de facto chairman of each district committee during the process, even though he was only a precinct committeeman for one of the districts.  The objectors further contended the designations made by subcommittees of the district committees were improper, as they were wrongly appointed by the entire central committee, rather than by the district committees.
The electoral board held in favor of the objectors, determining that the designation process was improper and that the nomination papers of the candidates were invalid.  On appeal by the candidates, the trial court affirmed the board's decision.
The Illinois Appellate Court then reversed the board’s decision, finding nothing improper about the procedure followed by the committee or the selection of the district subcommittees.  Although the electoral board found that the district subcommittees must be nominated or appointed by the district committees and not the central committee itself, the Appellate Court determined that no such limitation exists in the Election Code.  Rather, the Court specified that the Electoral Code only requires that the designation be made by a committee composed of precinct committeemen for that particular district.  In light of this interpretation, the court found that because the district subcommittees were comprised of volunteers from the appropriate districts, the selection of the subcommittees was proper.  Additionally, the court found that it was proper for the precinct committeeman to serve as the de facto chair of each district committee because political parties are allowed to follow their own internal rules.  Ultimately, the Illinois Appellate Court ordered the candidates' names returned to the ballot for the November 2012 election.
Post Authored by Erin Baker, Ancel Glink.


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