Kadner: Judge puts nine back on election ballot
By Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org February 5, 2013 10:55PM
Cook County Clerk David Orr discussed a special primary and general election for the 2nd Congressional District in his office at 69 W. Washington . | Rich Hein~Sun-Times
Updated: March 7, 2013 6:37AM
A Cook County Circuit Court judge has ruled that nine candidates were wrongly kicked off the primary election ballot by the Calumet City Electoral Board.
All of them originally were challenged because their statements of candidacy did not contain the words “personally known to me” in the area where the notary public swears that the person signing the document did so under oath on a certain date.
Two of the same candidates faced additional challenges that Judge Edmund Ponce de Leon also ruled invalid Monday.
At least a dozen candidates have been tossed off the primary election ballot in Calumet City by an election board that consists of incumbent officeholders the challengers would oppose in the election.
Mayor Michelle Qualkinbush and her political allies in Calumet City would have been unchallenged in the primary election had all the challenges been allowed.
As I have written in previous columns, candidates running for municipal office who used forms supplied by the Illinois Election Board have been challenged in Calumet City and at Prairie State College.
A spokesman for the state election board has admitted that the language on the statement of candidacy the agency provided does not match with language required in the Illinois Election Code.
But the election board states in the literature it distributes to candidates that the information it provides may not be correct and that they should hire a lawyer.
Most candidates running in municipal and school board elections, however, are not professional politicians and often do not have thousands of dollars in expendable income for an attorney.
In this instance, attorney John Jawor agreed to represent the Calumet City candidates pro bono.
The candidates facing challenges all are aligned with Calumet City mayoral candidate Brian Wilson and include candidates running for city clerk, city treasurer and seven aldermanic seats.
“It costs $337 to file an appeal (to the circuit court),” Jawor said. “We had postage fees of $900. Copying costs in excess of $1,500.
“All of that just for people to get on the ballot,” he said.
“There are attorneys who make a living running around from one municipality to another challenging candidates running for office on behalf of incumbents.
“And you have the state election board putting out a candidates guide for ordinary people that can’t be trusted.
“For 12 years there hasn’t been a challenger allowed on the ballot in Calumet City, and that’s just wrong. That’s why I think it was important to the democratic process to represent these people.”
A number of other candidates, including mayoral challenger Victor Green, are to appear before another judge on Friday. They also were kicked off the ballot because of the wording on their statements of candidacy.
Wilson, an alderman in Calumet City for eight years who is trying to run for mayor as an independent candidate in the April municipal election, is to appear before the Calumet City Electoral Board on Friday.
I have asked numerous election law attorneys and a spokesman for the Illinois Election Board what the words “who is personally known to me” by the notary’s name actually mean.
Does it mean the notary has known the individual for a day, a week, a year, 10 years?
No one has an explanation.
A notary typically demands some form of identification, such as a driver’s license, from the person signing a document.
Notaries often have not met the individual asking them to notarize a document before they step through the door.
But in the case of Green and some of the other candidates due for a court hearing on Friday, the notary was the person acting as their political organization’s legal counsel.
He signed an affidavit attesting to the fact that he knew the people.
But that was rejected as insufficient by the Calumet City Election Board.
Ponce de Leon ruled that the statements of candidacy “substantially complied” with the Illinois Election Code and that the election board’s decision to invalidate them were “clearly erroneous.”
That ruling still could be appealed, costing the candidates even more time and money.
And that’s the point of this exercise.
Incumbents who control local election boards can force their opponents to spend money they don’t have and intimidate potential rivals for government office, therefore ensuring their re-election.
The Legislature has passed a law creating a three-member independent election board in Cook County for candidates who run for park district, library district and fire protection district offices.
County Clerk David Orr has tried unsuccessfully to expand the board’s powers to cover municipal and school board elections, largely due to opposition from lobbying groups for those organizations, who are supported with your tax money.
Another tactic gaining prominence this year are challenges to candidates who owe a small amount of money to a municipality, such as $20 for an unpaid parking ticket or $27 for an overdue water bill.
Under the law, a candidate swears that he has no debts owing the government body for which he is running.
If a candidate pays his debt after filing, he is admitting his guilt and can be kicked off a ballot.
If a city employee lies to a candidate and says he owes no money, the candidate is still liable since the city employee’s vocal assurance does not carry the force of law.
That’s not a Catch-22. It’s a Catch-44.
Illinois, perhaps the most corrupt state in the nation, allows incumbents to decide if people can run against them.
The state election board can pass out information to candidates that contain errors.
And claims can be made that people owe debts that they really don’t owe.
In any other state, responsible people would be demanding reform. In Illinois, except for Orr, there’s not a peep of indignation.