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posted: 2/22/2013 5:27 PM

Judge keeps Naperville referendum on ballot

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Naperville voters will once again decide whether they will elect their city council members at large or by districts.

DuPage Circuit Judge Bonnie Wheaton on Friday rejected a last-ditch effort by a resident to keep the referendum question off the April 9 ballot.

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As a result, Naperville voters will be asked "Shall the city of Naperville elect city council at large instead of part of the councilmen at large and part of the councilmen from districts?"

An affirmative vote would overturn the results of a November 2010 referendum question in which more than 28,000 residents voted to establish a ward-based system by 2015. The entire community currently is allowed to vote on all city council candidates.

Resident Paul Sjordal filed the objection to this spring's referendum question, calling it "excessively vague and misleading." The Naperville Electoral Board ruled against Sjordal in late January, prompting Friday's appeal.

In her ruling, Wheaton said the referendum question met statute guidelines, was appropriately written and the electoral board showed no bias when ruling against Sjordal.

"Ballot access is a feature of democracy," Wheaton said. "It is completely within the public's purview to put this issue on the ballot every two years if they want to."

Sjordal said after court Friday that he is unsure whether he will push for further appeals but he is angry that what he believes will be a significantly smaller voting population in April may be able to overturn the will of the 28,000 who voted for the change during 2010s mayoral election.

Sjordal's attorney, Doug Ibendahl, said he felt the electoral board was unfairly biased against him from the beginning of their proceedings based on a previous referendum case he tried before the board. Friday he said he respectfully disagreed with Wheaton's ruling.

Naperville attorney and resident Rebecca Obarski, a leader of the "Yes At Large," group fighting to keep the city's at-large system, said she was overjoyed.

"I can't wait to get out there and start campaigning and talking to people about this," she said. "Now it's up to the voters."

Obarski said she expects there will be several coffees and forums held to discuss the question in the six weeks leading up to the election.

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