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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Mayor Candidate Remains on Ballot Even Without Minimum Signatures

UPDATE:  The case was subsequently appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, which reversed the appellate court's ruling and ordered that the incumbent mayor's name be removed from the ballot.  Jackson-Hicks v. East St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners, 2015 IL 118929.

A candidate for mayor of East St. Louis filed an objection to the nomination papers of the incumbent mayor, alleging that many of the mayor's signatures were invalid.  The electoral board conducted a hearing on the objection and determined that 48 of the 171 signatures were invalid. As a result, the mayor had 123 valid signatures, 13 short of the 136 signatures required to be on the ballot. Nevertheless, the electoral board denied the objection, finding that the mayor "substantially complied" with the signature requirement of section 10-3 of the Election Code and should remain on the ballot.  

The objector filed an appeal with the court.  In Jackson-Hicks v. East St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners, 2015 IL App (5th) 150028, the appellate court upheld the electoral board's decision to keep the mayor on the ballot.

The appellate court first noted that section 10-3 (establishing the minimum signature requirements to run for office) is a directory, not mandatory, provision of the Election Code.  Unlike sections 10-4 and 10-5, there is no penalty for noncompliance with section 10-3.  Directory provisions can be satisfied with substantial compliance.  In this case, the mayor needed 136 signatures, and submitted 171 signatures in his nomination papers.  Although 48 of these were deemed invalid, the court held that he "demonstrated initiative and at least a minimal appeal to the eligible voters" and removing him from the ballot would "deprive him of his right to run for office and would prevent the voters of East St. Louis from reelecting their incumbent mayor if they desire to do so."  

The court also addressed the objector's argument that allowing electoral boards to employ the "minimal appeal" standard would result in confusion and random results.  The court was not concerned about setting such a precedent, noting that each objection would be heard and decided on a case-by-case basis "giving due consideration to the requirement's primary purpose."   The court did caution candidates not to view the "minimal appeal" standard as a safety net.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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