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Article updated: 11/8/2013 6:18 PM

Judge strikes down state law on Lake Co. elections

Aaron Lawlor

Aaron Lawlor

 
David Akemann

David Akemann

 
Mike Nerheim

Mike Nerheim

 
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A much-maligned state law that stripped election oversight from the Lake County clerk and ordered the creation of a new commission to handle the task was struck down by a judge Friday.

Kane County Judge David Akemann -- on the bench because Lake County Chief Judge Fred Foreman is a defendant -- issued the ruling Friday evening.

"There is simply nothing unique to Lake County's population or geography that necessitates its singling out through a special law when a general law could be applicable," Akemann wrote in the 18-page finding.

Adopted this summer as part of a broad election-related package, the legislation strips oversight of Lake County's elections from the county clerk and gives it to a new, five-member commission.

"He ruled that the law was unconstitutional," said Lake County State's Attorney Mike Nerheim. "The permanent injunction will be entered."

Critics said the law illegally singles out Lake County and takes away voters' rights to choose whom they want to run their elections. Although the legislation doesn't mention Lake County by name, it describes affected counties by population and geography in such a way that it can only apply to Lake.

Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor sued the Illinois state elections board and Foreman to keep Foreman from appointing people to the panel as prescribed by the law. The ruling also permanently enjoins Forman from appointing an elections commission.

"This decision is a big win for Lake County voters and taxpayers. The bottom line is what Springfield did was unconstitutional and demonstrates government at its worst," Lawlor said in a statement.

"This ruling protects voters' right to decide who administers elections like every other county in the state and avoid the creation of a new expensive government bureaucracy."

Nerheim, who represented the county in the lawsuit, said the legislation "inexplicably and improperly" treated Lake County different in regard to the administration of elections.

Akemann issued a temporary injunction stopping the panel's formation in August.

Lawlor sought a permanent injunction and for the portion of the law targeting the county to be ruled unconstitutional.

Opponents of the law pushed back against it this week in Springfield, too. The state House voted to strike the election-commission order from the books.

The state Senate didn't vote on the proposal.

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