Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois
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In 2016, Cooke filed a complaint against the Committee for Frank J. Mautino with the Illinois State Board of Elections, alleging that the Committee had filed inadequate expenditure reports, Elections Code, 10 ILCS 5/9-7, and made expenditures that did not comply with section 9-8.10. The Board held that the Committee willfully violated its order to amend its expenditure reports and imposed a $5000 fine. Cooke appealed because the Board did not reach the merits of his complaint. On remand, the Board deadlocked on both issues and found that Cooke had not met his burden in establishing violations of either section. The appellate court reversed the Board’s findings that Cooke had not met his burden in establishing violations.The Illinois Supreme Court reversed in part. Section 9-8.10(a)(9) does not permit committees to make expenditures for gas and repairs to vehicles that are not owned or leased by the committee. For such vehicles, a committee may only make expenditures for actual mileage reimbursement. Because the Committee made expenditures for gas and repairs for vehicles it neither owned nor leased, the Committee violated section 9- 8.10(a)(9). Section 9-8.10(a)(2) regulates only the amount or price of expenditures. Cooke did not demonstrate that the Committee violated that section. View "Cooke v. Illinois State Board of Elections" on Justia Law

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In December 2020, Jackson and Pope each filed a statement as an independent candidate for village president. Jackson's petition had 50 voter signatures. Pope's had 32 signatures. An objection alleged that the number of signatures was insufficient under 10 ILCS 5/10-3. At an Electoral Board hearing, Schmidt, the Glendale Heights clerk and election official, testified that the Du Page County Clerk’s Office sent an e-mail indicating that “due to COVID, we are reducing the points of contact, here is a list of forms.” Schmidt stated that she read the State Board of Elections 2021 Candidate’s Guide, and, relying on the numbers “for non-partisan” elections, concluded that 24 signatures were required. Schmidt admitted that she did not understand the distinction between independent and nonpartisan. She acknowledged that she was never notified that the statutorily required number of signatures had been reduced because of the pandemic. Both candidates testified that they relied on Schmidt's representations.The Board overruled the objection, finding that both candidates justifiably relied on Schmidt’s statements and excusing their statutory violations. The trial and appellate courts affirmed.The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, noting that the lowest possible correctly calculated number of signatures would be 118. While ballot access is a substantial right, the best safeguard of that right is fidelity to the Election Code and not unrestrained discretion by a local election official inexplicably confused about the statutory distinction between partisan and nonpartisan elections. A precise mathematical formula, clear and certain in its application, prevents impermissible political bias. View "Corbin v. Schroeder" on Justia Law

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Elam, seeking election to the office of Riverdale village trustee at the consolidated general election occurring on April 6, 2021, filed nomination papers to be included on the ballot as an independent candidate on December 21, 2020. Attached to Elam’s nomination papers were 26 pages of signatures collected and certified by multiple petition circulators. Days later, objectors challenged Elam’s nomination papers, arguing that three individuals who circulated Elam’s nomination papers for signatures as an independent candidate in the 2021 consolidated general election violated statutory law by previously circulating nomination papers on behalf of a Democratic candidate in the 2021 consolidated primary election.The Municipal Officers Electoral Board for the Village of Riverdale determined that Election Code section 10-4, 10 ILCS 5/10-4 prohibits such a circumstance of “dual-circulation." The circuit court, appellate court, and Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. The policy reasons for the “dual-circulator” prohibition are evident in situations where a circulator solicits signatures for a party candidate in the primary (independent candidates do not appear on the primary ballot) and an independent candidate in the general election, both of whom will challenge one another for the same office in the general election. Section 10-4 prohibits situations such as this, which would undoubtedly cause voter confusion. View "Elam v. Municipal Officers Electoral Board for the Village of Riverdale" on Justia Law

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Calumet City held a referendum proposing that candidates could not seek the office of mayor while simultaneously holding an elected, paid state office. Before the outcome of the referendum was certified, Representative Jones of the 29th District of the General Assembly filed nomination papers seeking the office of mayor. The referendum was later certified as adopted. The day after certification, objectors brought suit to bar Jones from appearing on the February 2021 ballot in light of the newly passed referendum. The Municipal Officers Electoral Board for the City of Calumet City sustained the objection and removed Jones from the ballot. The circuit court of Cook County affirmed, directing that Jones’s name appear on the ballot but that all his votes be impounded or suppressed. The appellate court summarily reversed and ordered that Jones appear on the ballot.The Illinois Supreme Court stayed the appellate court order and subsequently reversed in favor of Jones. The referendum became effective on November 24, 2020, the date the election was certified. Because Jones filed his nomination papers on November 16, 2020, he was legally qualified to run for mayor at that time. His nomination papers were not defective at that time. View "Jones v. Municipal Officers Electoral Board for the City of Calumet City" on Justia Law

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Burns sought to place on the March 2020 primary election ballot the proposal: “Shall the terms of office for those persons seeking nomination or election to, or who are holding the office of, Village President (Mayor) and Village trustee in the Village of Elk Grove Village, be limited such that, at the February 23, 2021 Consolidated Primary Election and all subsequent elections, no person shall be eligible to seek nomination or election to, or to hold, elected office in the Village of Elk Grove Village where that person has held the same elected office for two (2) or more consecutive, four (4) year terms?” An objector argued Municipal Code 3.1-10-17 provides that any term-limit referendum must be prospective only; a referendum can only consider terms in office served after the passage of the referendum to determine a candidate’s eligibility. Burns maintained that section 3.1-10-17 was unconstitutional, facially and as applied. The electoral board sustained the objection and ordered that the referendum not appear on the ballot. The circuit court reversed, finding section 3.1-10-17 unconstitutional.The Illinois Supreme Court reinstated the decision of the electoral board. Section 3.1-10-17 contains an express limitation on the power of a home rule unit to regulate matters involving term limits. The General Assembly has the authority to legislate in this area prospectively because it has expressly indicated its intent to do so; it may choose to “preempt the exercise of a municipality’s home rule powers by expressly limiting that authority.” View "Burns v. Municipal Officers Electoral Board of the Village of Elk Grove Village" on Justia Law

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Johnson filed a referendum petition seeking to place on the November 2016, general election ballot the question of imposing term limits on the elected office of Broadview village president. The Broadview electoral board invalidated the referendum as vague and ambiguous “because it is not clear whether the Referendum applies retroactively as well as prospectively.” The circuit court concluded the referendum was self-executing, not vague or ambiguous, and ordered the referendum to appear on the ballot. The appellate court affirmed. The proposition appeared on the ballot, but the results were not released, in compliance with an appellate court injunction. The Illinois Supreme Court ordered that the injunctive order be vacated and took judicial notice that the referendum was approved, then affirmed. While the proposition did not provide an express date marking the relevant timeframe for the prior terms of office, it is directed at that those “who seek election to or hold the office of Village President” beginning with the April 2017 election who have “been previously elected” to that office for two consecutive full terms. When read in its entirety, the language adequately explains that the initial starting point for determining whether candidates were “previously elected” village president is the April 2017 election. View "Johnson v. Ames" on Justia Law

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The Illinois Constitution of 1970 may be amended by constitutional convention; the General Assembly; or ballot initiatives, Ill. Const. 1970, art. XIV, sects. 1, 2, 3. Ballot initiatives may only be used for amendments directed at “structural and procedural subjects contained in Article IV,” pertaining to Illinois’s legislative branch. The ballot initiative at issue addresses redistricting to redraw the legislative and representative districts following each federal decennial census. In May 2016, SIM filed with the Secretary of State a petition proposing the amendment of article IV, section 3, to replace the current system for redrawing Illinois’s legislative and representative districts. The General Assembly’s role would be eliminated from the process, with primary responsibility for drawing legislative and representative districts falling to a new “Independent Redistricting Commission” selected through a process involving limited legislative input. The State Board of Elections determined that the petition received more than the required number of valid signatures. Days after submission of the petition, a “taxpayer’s suit” was filed (735 ILCS 5/11-303), seeking to enjoin the disbursal of public funds to determine the petition’s compliance with the Election Code, 10 ILCS 5/1-1. The circuit court found that the petition did not comply with requirements for inclusion on the ballot. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, citing “the plain language of article XIV, section 3.” View "Hooker v. Illinois State Board of Elections" on Justia Law