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Monday, November 17, 2014

Electoral Board Disqualified for Interest in Term Limits Referendum

Ken Zurek and others collected more than 700 signatures to place a term limit referendum on the ballot in the Village of Franklin Park.  A petition was filed to object to the proposed referendum, alleging that the ballot question was ambiguous.  Under the Election Code, the Franklin Park electoral board would hear and decide the objections.  The electoral board consists of the village president, senior trustee, and clerk.  Although Zurek objected to the make-up of the board, arguing that they should be disqualified because of their interest in the question, the board rejected that argument and denied Zurek's objection to the referendum question.

Zurek appealed to the circuit court, arguing that the members of the electoral board should have been replaced with public members, arguing that all three members have an interest in referendum question since the issue of term limits would affect them.  The electoral board responded that state statute did not provide for disqualification of electoral board members unless they were candidates for office with relation to the objection.  The circuit court agreed and upheld the electoral board's decision.  

On appeal, however, the appellate court held that the village president, senior trustee, and clerk should have been disqualified from serving on the electoral board. Zurek v. Franklin Park Officers Electoral Board, 2014 IL App (1st) 142618.  The court analyzed the disqualification language in state statute.  Although the petition before the electoral board was not that of an opposing candidate, the court nevertheless that the term limits referendum was "in relation to" their candidacy.  As a result, the court held that the members should have been replaced with public members.

It's interesting to note that the court issued its ruling on November 4, 2014, the election day at which this referendum would have been on the ballot had it not been stricken by the electoral board.  The court rejected the mootness argument, however, holding that the objection could still be heard post-election (by a newly constituted electoral board made up of public members).  If the referendum survives, it would be placed on the ballot at the next election.  

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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