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posted: 11/4/2010 1:00 AM

Naperville seeks court decision to clear up districting issue

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Naperville officials are seeking help from the DuPage County Circuit Court to untangle the "legal quagmire" created Tuesday when voters demanded the city be divided into districts.

City Attorney Margo Ely filed the complaint Wednesday morning asking the court to rule on the timing of the referendum and on the conflict between that timing and candidate petition deadlines.

The state-imposed deadline for receiving candidate petitions happens before the proposition will be certified.

"The statute says (the created and approved districts) are supposed to go into effect during a mayoral election," Ely said Wednesday evening. "If we had a municipal election in 2012 we could have it done by then, but the deadline for candidates (in the April 2011 municipal election) is Nov. 15-22, and the election code says you have to have 90 days to get your signatures. There's not 90 days from November 23 to have an opposition period, get the ballot printed and have the April election."

Roughly 66 percent of voters Tuesday approved dividing the city into five compact and contiguous districts, each with its own representative to the council. Three council members and the mayor would continue to be elected at-large.

New district lines would be drawn by the city manager once every decade when census numbers are released.

"We respect and honor the Naperville residents' wishes to move to a district system," said City Manager Doug Krieger. "In order to ensure that the election process is orderly and that residents and candidates understand what they are voting for when they head to the polls, we are asking the court to resolve the conflict and agree that this referendum should be effective in 2015. This will allow us to receive our certified census figures in spring 2011, create districts and implement this referendum in an orderly manner."

Ely, while noting the referendum language was accurate and did not give voters control when the change would go into effect, said she wishes the question would have gone on the April 2011 ballot.

"The voters only decide whether there would be districts and they have overwhelmingly said there would be districts," Ely said. "Hindsight is 20/20. I would have preferred that this would have been on the April 2011 ballot just avoid this legal quagmire but it was on the November ballot."

Ely said she will be back in court next week, asking for an expedited opinion.

"We've to get this sorted out," she said.