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Monday, December 28, 2020

Access to Candidate Nominating Petitions

This year is a local election cycle for many Illinois units of local government, and many candidates for local office filed their nominating petitions and other candidacy paperwork last week. A question was recently raised regarding access to candidate nominating petitions and filings, and whether the exemptions under FOIA apply to certain information within those filings.

Cerrtainly, nominating petitions and candidacy papers are public records under FOIA. As a result, there may be certain information within those documents that could be considered exempt from FOIA, such as signatures and home addresses. The problem with redacting petition signers signatures and home addresses before providing these records is that this type of redaction could conceal the very information a person might need to determine whether a candidate complied with the requirements of the Election Code for his or her candidacy. For example, if a potential objector could not view the petition signers signatures, how could the objector determine whether the signatures matched voter records? Similarly, how could an objector determine whether a candidate was a resident if the candidate's home address was redacted?

Section 10-7 of the Illinois Election Code includes a provision that requires local election officials to provide access to these candidacy filings for this reason (see below). Because of the very short time-frame for filing an objection to a candidacy's filing and to ensure that access meets the purpose of the objection process to confirm a candidate's eligibility to run for office, it is recommended that local election officials provide persons with prompt access to candidacy papers, without making any redactions to those papers. 

All certificates of nomination and nomination papers when presented or filed shall be open, under proper regulation, to public inspection, and the State Board of Elections and the several election authorities and local election officials having charge of nomination papers shall preserve the same in their respective offices not less than 6 months.


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