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Things aren’t always what they seem

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* Petition challenges can be a murky business because we have to dive into some pretty arcane laws and court cases that only a handful of lawyers really understand.

Yesterday, we linked to a story about a challenge to Rep. Deb Mell’s petitions. Mell is Rod Blagojevich’s sister-in-law and the daughter of Ald. Dick Mell, so the news spread far and wide.

The linked story included this explanation..

Ms. Mell is not registered to vote at her apparently new address. By law, all candidates are supposed to be registered at the address they use for their nominating petitions.

But this is from someone close to Rep. Mell’s campaign…

First, there is no law that says that a candidate must be registered to vote at the address on the petition/Statement of Candidacy. In fact, the Appellate Court has already considered this argument in Henderson v. Miller, where the Court said:

“The act does not require that a candidate be a voter at his place of residence. The defendant’s Statement of Candidacy is on a form provided by the Board of Election Commissioners of the City of Chicago. If the plaintiffs’ argument is correct, the form provided by the Board requires a candidate to swear to something which the statute itself does not require. The illogic of the plaintiffs’ argument is apparent.”

Second, even if there were such a law (which there is not), that law would be unconstitutional for the State legislature. Article IV, Section 2(c) of the Constitution sets forth the three eligibility requirements for the office of Representative: citizenship, 21 years of age, and a resident of the district for two years preceding the election. On that question, the Illinois Supreme Court has said:

“The General Assembly has no power to add to the qualifications of the members of that body as fixed by the constitution” People ex rel. Breckton v. Board of Election Com’rs of Chicago.

The U.S. Supreme Court has similarly held that “the three qualifications for membership [in Congress] specified in Art. I, § 2, are of ‘a precise, limited nature’ and ‘unalterable by the legislature…’” U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton, where the Supreme Court struck down term limits as imposing an unconstitutional additional qualification (i.e. non-incumbency) to run for Congress. Here, the plaintiffs would be arguing that State law imposes an additional qualification (i.e. voter registration) to run for the General Assembly.

Clear as mud? Good. Glad I could help.

* Meanwhile, Dan Hynes is behind a petition challenge

Comptroller Dan Hynes’ campaign for the Feb. 2 Democratic nomination for governor is backing a challenge to the petitions filed by Oak Park trial attorney Edmund Scanlan, a political newcomer who got into the race in early October.

The objection to Scanlan’s petitions was filed Monday, the first day for opponents to try to remove candidates from the primary ballot over alleged problems with nominating petitions to the State Board of Elections. The Hynes camp contends that Scanlan fell far short of the minimum 5,000 valid nominating signatures despite submitting slightly more than 10,000 signatures.

“All candidates for office from school board to governor are required to do a few simple things to get on the ballot, including getting a small percentage of the voters to sign their nominating petitions,” Hynes’ campaign spokesman Matt McGrath said in a statement. “In Mr. Scanlan’s case, it is apparent that his petitions fall woefully short of this standard.” […]

An objection also was filed to the petitions submitted by another Democratic candidate for governor, community activist William “Dock” Walls of Chicago. Walls called the effort a “frivolous challenge.” Efforts to reach the person who filed the objection were not successful.

And over in Cook County

Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown challenged Stroger’s nominating petitions on the first day to try to knock an opponent off the ballot. Brown’s petitions also were challenged. […]

In a lottery held today to determine ballot position, Preckwinkle received the top spot, followed by O’Brien and Brown. Stroger, who waited until the deadline to file his petitions, secured the bottom spot.


Believing that some of Stroger’s nomination petitions have problems, Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown on Monday mounted a formal challenge.

“It was just ridiculous. It was chicken scratch, it was scribble-scrabble. It didn’t look well at all. It looked obviously fake and false,” said Brown spokeswoman Lily Kim.

Kim said their review of Stroger’s petitions turned up “flagrant” violations, including invalid or false addresses, false names and names that didn’t match addresses.

“Maybe two were actually real or authentic, and there about 20 signatures on each petition,” she said.

You see a lot of trash talk at this stage of the game. Remember that. It’s the lawyers who control this process, not the spokespeople.

* Speaking of trash talk, this is from a press release…

Former Deputy Illinois Treasurer Raja (RA-ja) Krishnamoorthi (krish-nuh-MOOR-thee) today blasted State Rep. David Miller and one of Miller’s Facebook supporters for challenging Krishnamoorthi’s petitions of candidacy for Illinois State Comptroller, charging that Miller’s campaign was trying to deny Democratic primary voters a progressive alternative to business as usual.

“I’ve been running for this office for months with detailed plans to protect the taxpayers and open up state government to its citizens,” Krishnamoorthi said. “My campaign collected thousands of signatures from voters throughout our state who are tired of business as usual and want to bring real reform and openness to Springfield.” […]

“The challenge to my petitions is nothing less than harassment and intimidation,” Krishnamoorthi said. “As the endorsed candidate of the Cook County Democratic Organization, Miller’s campaign is using heavy-handed insider tactics to limit access to the ballot and deny voters an alternative to the business as usual he represents.”

* Related…

* Eapen accused of voting hijinx: Four members of a West Rogers Park family testified Monday that Ald. Bernard Stone’s (50th) ward superintendent Anish Eapen coaxed them to vote absentee, collected their ballots and then mailed them during the heated 2007 aldermanic race.

* Objections filed in 8th, 10th Congressional districts

posted by Rich Miller
Tuesday, Nov 10, 09 @ 10:47 am


  1. ==Clear as mud? Good. Glad I could help==

    LOL. The lawyers for both Laiacona and Mell are heavy hitters. I imagine this issue will receive increased coverage due to the Mell political dynasty and Blago component. Fun stuff.

    Comment by The Doc Tuesday, Nov 10, 09 @ 11:23 am

  2. I find it very difficult to believe that Rep. Mell would have moved since her 2008 election (to an address that is far more likely to also be part of the 33rd Ward after the next remap) without filling out a change of address form or re-registering within 48 hours of the move. Her Dad would have seen to that (a point that even Ald. Mell’s political opponents would likely conceed to be the case).

    Comment by fedup dem Tuesday, Nov 10, 09 @ 11:30 am

  3. Clear as mud

    But using the same logic (basic qualifications as outlined in the constitution) wouldn’t any challenge be invalid? At the very least the classic improperly bound petitions challenge be moot.

    The challenge on Mell should be fun, also reading that one dude get his shorts in a bunch over getting challenged is a hoot.

    Comment by Oneman Tuesday, Nov 10, 09 @ 11:31 am

  4. “Clear as mud”

    How can we expect any kind of logical clarity in a system that is as muddy as they come?


    Comment by train111 Tuesday, Nov 10, 09 @ 11:42 am

  5. fed up dem,

    We found it difficult to believe that she would have failed to re-register at the new address, but that is the fact and they are not denying it. Arrogance breeds an inattention to detail.


    Comment by Rich Means Tuesday, Nov 10, 09 @ 12:29 pm

  6. The situation with Deb Mell is, indeed, as clear as mud. Isn’t the real issue the fact that her nominating petitions had inaccurate information? Sure, it’s a technicality, but that’s what petition challenges are all about. Try this: Fill out your application for a fishing license incorrectly, then bring it to the attention of the authorities. See if your still allowed to fish.

    Comment by Tom Mannis Tuesday, Nov 10, 09 @ 12:49 pm

  7. Hynes looks very small going after these two bit players. I understand why he is doing it, but it doesn’t play well at all.

    Comment by Niles Township Tuesday, Nov 10, 09 @ 12:53 pm

  8. === Fill out your application for a fishing license incorrectly===

    We’re talking constitutional issues vs. paperwork issues. Try to make your analogies useful. Thanks.

    Comment by Rich Miller Tuesday, Nov 10, 09 @ 12:57 pm

  9. Is the window of opportunity to challenge the petitions of a candidate over? Monday was the deadline to submit a challenge but are there exceptions to that date?

    Comment by 31st Warder Tuesday, Nov 10, 09 @ 1:07 pm

  10. The Statement of Candidacy is a notarized, legal document that says, in part ==I, (Name of Candidate) being first duly sworn (or affirmed), say that I reside at _____, in the City, Village, Unincorporated Area (circle one) of _____ (if unincorporated, list municipality that provides postal service) Zip Code __, in the County of __, State of Illinois; that I am a qualified voter therein and am a qualified Primary voter of the ___ Party;==

    On the voter registration form, the voter swears that they reside at the address listed and that it is their permanent residence. If they move, the voter registration form is no longer true and no longer valid. If you change your residence, but not your registration, you are no longer a registered voter.

    If the candidate lists an address at which they are not a registered voter on the SoC form, it would seem that the SoC form would be incorrect and invalid.

    Comment by Pot calling kettle Tuesday, Nov 10, 09 @ 1:38 pm

  11. Rich, the explanation and its reference to the Illinois Constitution ignores that candidates also have to file the Illinois Election Code. I am not opining on whether Mell did or did not do that– I am only saying that the world is not as simple as her spokesperson things.

    On a separate front, I would love to find out how David Miller thinks he is going to get ANY support in Will County (except perhaps in University Park), since he supports that Jesse Jackson Jr ALNAC airport plan.

    Comment by nice kid Tuesday, Nov 10, 09 @ 2:06 pm

  12. But using the pure constitutional definition then the signature requirement should be invalid.

    I don’t see how pure constitutional works considering how this states tough signature requirements have been upheld.

    Comment by Oneman Tuesday, Nov 10, 09 @ 2:18 pm

  13. ===We’re talking constitutional issues vs. paperwork issues. Try to make your analogies useful. Thanks.===

    Even with paperwork issues, there are two types of requirements and two types of compliance. Some requirements are mandatory, while others are merely directory. Mandatory requirements require strict compliance, while directory requirements only require substantial compliance. Inclusion of the word shall, or similar language, is good evidence that a requirement is mandatory; and a penalty for failure to comply is even better evidence.

    Comment by Anonymous Tuesday, Nov 10, 09 @ 2:20 pm

  14. Incidentally, I also noted the following:

    “Pituc’s objection was coordinated by Illinois Green Party leaders, party spokesman Patrick Kelly said.”

    “‘We believe there are problems with the petitions and also that Mr. Mayers doesn’t represent Green Party values and isn’t a member of the party,’ Kelly said.”

    Comment by Squideshi Tuesday, Nov 10, 09 @ 2:22 pm

  15. So, I dug through all 133 ballot challenges filed before the Elections Board and am left with a few questions.

    How come it is the poorer inner city districts that actually need good representation are the ones where this practice most often goes on? You see very few State Senate or Representative Districs outside of Cook County where this goes on. Are their ‘elected’ representatives so bankrupt or devoid of ideas and plans that they can not honestly debate a real opponent and therefore rely on this sort of nonsense to eliminate any potential rivals? Are their trivial political feuds so important that they exert time and energy into these frivolous challenges that could be better used serving their constituents?
    How can the Democratic Party which claims to represent the “poor and down-trodden” not only let this happen, but oftentimes endorse it?

    Just some questions I guess


    Comment by train111 Tuesday, Nov 10, 09 @ 3:16 pm

  16. train111 makes some good points. Most of these challenges are not filed for legitmate reasons such as invalid signatures, but to distract the candidate, force him or her to spend money on attorney’s fees, force the candidate to drop out, etc. It is bad for democracy that these types of tactics are allowed. I hope the law allows for attorneys fees and/or sanctions against those who file frivilous challenges. I bet money Miller’s challenge is frivilous.

    Comment by Capfax reader Tuesday, Nov 10, 09 @ 3:33 pm

  17. I need to proofread my posts more…

    Comment by nice kid Tuesday, Nov 10, 09 @ 5:11 pm

  18. train111 - could it be that those neighborhoods combine (a) proximity to Lake Michigan (way downstate has some poor areas and essentially no petition challenges) and )b) lots of potential candidates without the means to get good legal advice beforehand or the educational base among their supporters to understand the intracacies of the rules?

    Ballot access is not rocket science, but it is not obvious of all that simple either. A candidate without good legal advice and an army of dim campaign workers is likely to err in a way that is fatal.

    Comment by krome Tuesday, Nov 10, 09 @ 8:15 pm

  19. If one accepts the position that the General Assembly has no power to add requirements for candidates to appear on the ballot, the whole game of challenging candidacies goes away.

    I don’t see anything in the Constitution about signatures required, statements of economic interest or anything else.

    The requirement of the Illinois Constitution is that one has lived in the district for two years.

    Is the Mell camp asking for the ballot access requirement being reduced to:

    1. a letter from the candidate requesting to be on the ballot
    2. an affidavit that the candidate has lived in the district for the past two years

    If that’s the rules were gonna play by, let’s play by those rules.

    Comment by Carl Nyberg Wednesday, Nov 11, 09 @ 8:36 am

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