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updated: 2/8/2011 11:43 AM

Ballot access lawsuit doesn't stop suburban election process

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By Kerry Lester

Downstate county election commissions may be telling absentee voters to hold off in light of a pending ballot access lawsuit.

In the suburbs, however, it's business as usual.

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"It's not that we haven't contemplated it," DuPage County Elections Executive Director Bob Saar said Friday of asking absentee voters to wait out the results of the Constitution Party suit against the Illinois State Board of Elections.

"But trying to predict what the courts are going to do and when would also be something that's very dangerous to say, 'Let's hold off.' We have obligations, not just state but federal obligations, to get military and oversees ballots out. The last thing you want to do is start missing statutory deadlines in a guessing game."

Sangamon County election officials are asking absentee voters to wait if they can, in light of the suit, the State-Journal Register is reporting. And in Stevenson County, absentee voting has been delayed, according to a different paper, the Journal-Standard.

But calls into suburban Cook, Kane, DuPage and Lake county clerks' offices Friday found not one of the four election bodies is adjusting their schedules at the moment, at the advice of the state board of elections.

"After hearing Stevenson County was holding off, rather promptly, the state board of elections issued a statement that there was no advice to delay," Lake County Clerk Willard Helander said. "We're rocking and rolling here."

In late August, state board of election officials ruled to remove statewide Constitution Party candidates running in the U.S. Senate, governor/lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, comptroller, and treasurer's races, from the ballot, claiming about 3,000 of the 25,000 signatures needed were invalid.

Constitution Party officials responded by filing a lawsuit several days later.

In a hearing on Friday at Chicago's Daley Center, a circuit court judge ruled to validate a number of signatures, said there were still an insufficient number, court officials said. Constitution candidate for Senate Randy Stufflebeam said the party is still 80 signatures short of being allowed on the ballot. The Constitution Party now plans to file an appeal with the appellate court.

Stufflebeam called Friday's ruling a "big victory."

If the appellate court would ultimately rule in the party's favor, ballots would have to be recreated and recast.

It wouldn't be the first time. Cook County Clerk's Office spokeswoman County Greves pointed out that candidates in local elections frequently get reinstated on the ballot after absentee and early voting has started.

Having a statewide candidate reinstated would be far more complicated than reinstating a village board candidate, however.

"If (the Constitution Party's status) does change, we'll have to go back and start from the beginning," Saar said.

Ballots would have to be re-proofed and voting machines would have to be retested.

"Those voters who already voted will have to get new ballots sent to them. We'd do that express mail. If they were to reverse this, the impact would be very great. And it would be very expensive."

Thursday was the first day of absentee voting for the Nov. 2 election. Oct. 11 is the first day of early voting.

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