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Thursday, October 13, 2022

Court Finds Referenda to Recall Mayor Null and Void

In Henyard v. Municipal Officers of Dolton, an Illinois Appellate Court found two referenda authorizing recall of a mayor and subsequently recalling the mayor null and void.

The village's mayor (also known as village president) was elected during the 2021 Consolidated Election. In December 2021, the village board placed two referenda on the general primary election ballot. The first referendum asked whether voters wanted to adopt a recall mechanism that would apply to the mayor effective upon certification of the general election results. The second referendum asked voters if the majority passed the recall mechanism, whether the mayor should be recalled and removed from office.

The mayor filed a lawsuit asking the court to find both referenda invalid and unconstitutional. The circuit court held the referendum provisions were null and void and directed the county clerk to take reasonable efforts to notify early voters of the court’s action; however, the appellate court "stayed" the ruling because early voting had started. The appellate court directed the clerk to conduct the referenda elections as planned, but prohibited the clerk from proclaiming the results as they would have no force or effect until further court order. The election took place, and the state’s attorney reported to the court that both referenda were approved,  and the appellate court then issued its ruling that the referenda were null and void.

The appellate court held that the village had no authority to recall a village official midterm. The court pointed to Illinois history of no public official ever being recalled midterm by a referendum vote – regardless of whether a recall mechanism was in place before the public official’s term began. The court also held the referendum was not clear or precise enough to implement a valid local recall process. The court stated a local referendum mechanism needs to be precise and clear, so it does not leave gaps to be filled by the legislature or municipal body. The court called the village's referenda “fatally vague and ambiguous” regarding the information needed for its implementation and enforcement.

As such, the appellate court concluded that the two referenda were null and void and directed the county clerk not to take an official tally of the votes nor announce the election results.

Post Authored by Katie Nagy & Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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