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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Candidate Signature Requirements are Mandatory

A couple of months ago, we reported on an appellate court decision finding that the incumbent candidate for Mayor of East St. Louis could remain on the ballot even though he did not file nominating petitions with the minimum required number of signatures.  You can read about that case here.  The incumbent mayor had filed petitions with 171 signatures, 35 more than the minimum required.  However, 48 of those signatures were invalidated in an election challenge, leaving him with only 123 signatures, 13 short of the minimum required to run for office. Nevertheless, the electoral board found substantial compliance with the signature requirement. That decision was upheld by the trial and appellate courts.

The case was subsequently appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, which issued its decision on Monday reversing these rulings, and ordering that the incumbent mayor's name be removed from the ballot.  Jackson-Hicks v. East St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners, 2015 IL 118929.

The Illinois Supreme Court first reviewed the minimum signature requirement language of section 10-3 of the Election Code, finding it to be mandatory. The Court likened the minimum signature requirement for nominating petitions to the vote requirement to win an election, stating as follows:
When the law provides that a certain threshold is required in order to win an election, it is understood that if one fails to attain the threshold, one loses. Runners-up have no claim to office on a theory that they came close enough. So it has always been in American electoral process. So it remains.
The Supreme Court rejected Mayor Parks' argument that he should remain on the ballot because he demonstrated a "'minimal appeal to the voters," finding that the mathematical formula for determining the minimum signature requirements is "clear and certain in its application" and "excludes any possibility of impermissible political bias."  Although Illinois courts have recognized that substantial compliance can satisfy certain mandatory provisions of the Election Code, "close enough" cannot satisfy the minimal signature requirements. Anything less, the Court noted, could lead to subjective and variable rulings by local electoral boards and officials.

Because Mayor Parks failed to meet the threshold signature requirement to run for reelection, the Court ruled that the electoral board erred in denying the objection to his candidacy. As a result, Mayor Parks is not qualified to run for reelection.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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