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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Write-In Candidacy for Primary Election Must Be Filed with Both Local and County Clerks

A candidate for the Democratic Party's nomination for village president filed a declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate with the village clerk within the statutory timeframe for the primary election. However, the county clerk refused to conduct a primary election because the declaration was not filed with his office.  The candidate filed a mandamus action, and the circuit court ordered the county to hold a primary election. The county clerk appealed. The question in Lewis v. Orr, 2013 IL App (1st) 130357, was in which office must a declaration for write-in candidacy be filed - village clerk or county clerk? 
The First District Appellate Court reviewed two statutory provisions relating to write-in candidacies.  Section 7-5 of the Election Code provides that in order to be a write-in candidate for a primary election, a candidate must file a notice of intent with the local election official. Here, the candidate complied with Section 7-5 by filing her declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate with the village clerk, who is the "local election official."  However, Section 17-16.1 of the Election Code provides that write-in votes will only be counted for candidates who file notarized declarations of intent to be a write-in candidate with the "proper election authority."  The Election Code defines the proper election authority as the county clerk.  In this case, the candidate acknowledged that she did not file her declaration with the county clerk.
The court determined that following a strict interpretation of the two statutes in this case would lead to an absurd result - it would require a primary election under Section 7-5 but would not count any of the votes cast for the write-in candidate for failure to comply with 17-16.1.  Consequently, the court concluded that a primary need only be held when a write-in candidate files the proper paperwork with both the election authority (county clerk) and the election official (village clerk).  Because she failed to file her declaration with both the county and village clerks, she would not be entitled to run as a write-in candidate in the primary election.
Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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