Updates on cases, laws, and other topics of interest to local governments

Subscribe by Email

Enter your Email:
Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Subscribe in a Reader

Follow Municipal Minute on Twitter


Blog comments do not reflect the views or opinions of the Author or Ancel Glink. Some of the content may be considered attorney advertising material under the applicable rules of certain states. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Please read our full disclaimer

Monday, November 11, 2013

Election Law Targeting Lake County is Unconstitutional

We have written on this blog about the law passed in July of this year that would have transferred the Lake County Clerk's authority over elections to a new election commission.  Last week, we reported on a bill that would have repealed that requirement.  Based on a recent circuit court ruling, however, there may be no need to move forward with the second bill since the Judge ruled that the law was unconstitutional.  County of Lake et al. v. Chief Judge Fred Foreman, et al (Please note that the linked copy of this ruling is courtesy of Lake County's website and is inexplicably missing page 16 - we will update the blog with a complete copy as soon as we can)
On July 30, 2013, Lake County and County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor filed a lawsuit against the Chief Judge, Illinois State Board of Elections, and others challenging the new law as unconstitutional and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief.   The County alleged that the statute was impermissible special legislation because Lake County is the only county that now, or in the future, would trigger the election commission requirement (the statute applied to any "county with a population of more than 700,000 persons as of the 2010 federal decennial census that borders another state and borders no more than 2 other Illinois counties").  The county also argued that the mandatory imposition of an election commission deprives the voters and the county board of the ability to determine themselves whether a commission is desirable.  The defendants defended the law by arguing that the classification was not special legislation but merely a population-based classification.
Kane County Circuit Court Judge Akemann, appointed to avoid any potential conflict of interest in having a Lake County Court rule on this issue, issued the opinion in this case.  His 18 page written ruling contains a detailed review of case law analyzing the constitutional prohibition on special legislation, and the legality of population-based classifications.  In this case, the court determined that although population classifications are not per se illegal, they must meet a two-prong test established by the Illinois Supreme Court.  Here, the law failed both prongs of the two-part test.  First, the court could not perceive of any rational difference of situation or condition that would support having the law apply only to counties with a population greater than 700,000.  Second, the court could find no rational basis to treat an interior county differently from a county that borders another state.   “There is simply nothing unique to Lake County’s population or geography that necessitates its singling out through a special law when a general law could be applicable." 
As a result, Judge Akemann held that the new law violated the special legislation clause by treating Lake County differently than any other county, and enjoined the Chief Judge and Illinois State Board of Elections from implementing, enforcing, or administering the law. 


Post a Comment