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Friday, April 12, 2019

Court Says Electoral Board in Best Position to Assess Weight of Evidence

A candidate for trustee in the Village of Burnham filed 16 pages of nominating papers with 182 signatures.  34 signatures were required to qualify for the ballot.  An objector challenged the validity of the signatures and, after a hearing, the Village’s electoral board declared the papers invalid and struck the candidate’s name from the ballot.  The board found an “unmistakable pattern of fraud, false swearing, and disregard for the mandatory requirements of the Election Code.” 

The board’s decision was based on finding that 105 of the 182 signatures were invalid because the signer was either not the proper person, not a registered voter in the Village, or not located there.  In addition, the board discovered that 60 of the 105 invalid signatures were contained within 5 consecutive pages of the signature sheets.  At the hearing, the candidate testified that he personally obtained and witnessed every signature in his nomination papers by going door to door.  The board found his testimony to be untruthful because the 5 consecutive pages came from multiple streets and did not include “a single consecutively listed address on the same street.” Furthermore, the signatures on those pages appeared to be written in the hand of just a few people. 

The candidate appealed, and the court in Hodges v. Municipal Officers Electoral Board of the Village of Burnham, agreed with the board. According to the court, a board is in the best position to assess the candidate’s credibility and determine the weight to be given to his testimony.  As such, a court will not substitute its judgment for that of the board absent a finding that the board’s decision was clearly erroneous.

Post Authored by David Warner, Ancel Glink


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