Objection to Elk Grove Village referendum question heads to court

The fate of a March 17 term-limits referendum in Elk Grove Village now rests in the hands of the court.

After nearly four hours of oral arguments Saturday, Elk Grove Village's electoral board gave a divided ruling on a second objection to the referendum question, leaving it up to a higher authority it did with an earlier objection filed in the matter.

Both objections involve a ballot question filed by resident Tim Burns, which would ask voters whether the mayor and village trustees should be able to serve no more than two consecutive 4-year terms. If approved, it could prevent four longtime incumbents - including Mayor Craig Johnson - from running again in April 2021.

Presiding on the electoral board were Chairman Daniel Kelly, Christopher Cohen and Village Clerk Lorrie Murphy. Kelly and Cohen were appointed to serve after Johnson and Trustee Nancy Czarnik recused themselves because they would be directly affected by the referendum.

The board denied three of six articles on the motion to dismiss filed by Burns' attorneys against the second objection, filed by Gil Schumm.

Schumm, treasurer of the Committee to Oppose the Retroactive Term Limits Referendum, alleged Burns committed a "pattern of fraud" by not being the true circulator of some petition sheets he filed. The electoral board agreed there was some evidence of that, but didn't specifically rule on that issue.

Both sides agreed the petition had 851 more signatures than required. Even if 97 signatures alleged to be fraudulently obtained were disqualified, it's not enough to invalidate the petition.

"It was a total win for us," said Burt Odelson, one of Burns' attorneys, adding that the signatures are not fraudulent.

The electoral board rejected Schumm's claim that the proposed referendum question is vague. But Schumm's attorney, John Fogarty, said, "Frankly, I look forward to presenting this argument to a higher court because I think they're incorrect."

The earlier objection filed by Benjamin Lee centered on a law signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker requiring municipal term limits approved after Nov. 8, 2016, to be prospective, not retroactive - meaning terms served before limits are in place would have no relevance.

The electoral board sustained Lee's objection and left it to the court to determine the law's constitutionality. A Cook County circuit court judge is expected to rule Wednesday. Ballots will be certified Thursday. To remain on the ballot, the referendum must fend off both objections.

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