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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Impaneling of Multiple Municipal Electoral Boards Upheld

Yesterday, we reported on a proposed bill to modify the way challenges to candidates for municipal and township offices are heard. As noted yesterday, currently, the electoral board that hears these challenges is comprised of local elected officials - for example, a municipal electoral board consists of the village president/mayor, clerk, and senior trustee/alderman. Because these municipal electoral boards hear challenges to candidates for municipal office, it is not uncommon to have a number of conflicts of interest on the boards. For example, a mayor who is running for reelection may be the subject of a candidate petition challenge that would be heard by the municipal electoral board on which the mayor sits. 

In those cases where there is a conflict of interest, the Election Code has a process for replacing the conflicted member with either a replacement elected official or, in some cases, a "public member" appointed by the county circuit court clerk. That process is the subject of a recent case Ervin v. Municipal Officers Elected Board, 2017 IL App (1st) 170066-U.

In this case, Ervin had filed objections to 10 candidates for elected municipal offices. Because of various conflicts of interest, the regularly-constituted municipal electoral board (president, clerk, senior trustee) could not hear all 10 of the objections. So, the municipality established 4 different electoral boards to hear the objections, some of which had public members to replace members who had conflicts. Ervin filed suit, alleging that the differently constituted electoral boards violated the Election Code - she claimed that the municipality should have had established one electoral board made up of 3 public members to hear all 10 of her objections. 

The appellate court addressed one issue - whether a municipality may create more than one electoral board for hearing objections under the Election Code. Based on a review of the language in section 10-9 of the Election Code, the court said yes, and upheld the municipality's decision to have multiple electoral boards. The court rejected Ervin's argument that once a statutory member was disqualified from serving on one electoral board, he or she could not hear any objections at that election. The court also rejected Ervin's argument that if one statutory member is disqualified then the remaining 2 statutory members should be disqualified and replaced with public members. In short, the court held that it was not uncommon for a municipality to have multiple electoral boards passing on objections during a particular election cycle and, that practice was entirely consistent with the Electoral Board

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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