Local elections teem with ballot challenges

Updated 1/28/2013 11:44 AM

The pros and cons go something like this:

Pro: If a candidate can't be bothered to follow the rules for running -- getting enough signatures, doing the paperwork correctly -- he/she is not qualified to hold public office and shouldn't even be on the ballot.


Con: This is a bunch of politically inspired nitpicking, and when successful the only tangible result is disenfranchisement of voters who are in some cases left without a choice after a candidate is booted from the ballot.

It's the time of the year again in which the ever-popular sport of trying to get one's political rivals off the ballot is in full swing. If you want to get a handle on how pervasive this is, just go to dailyherald.com and put "ballot objections" in the search engine. You'll see scores of stories about people challenging the rights of others to run for office.

Many of the objections are technical. Challenges erupted in Roselle after candidates were accused of not supplying the sufficient number of signatures on their petitions. Ultimately, the candidates were allowed to stay on the ballot, but one of those challenged, Jim Banks, an attorney, said the applicable state law was "very unclear and ambiguous."

Some objections, though, might strike one as the aforementioned picking of nits. For instance, objectors accused South Elgin Village President Jim Hansen of improperly binding his petitions with a paper clip. The local electoral board denied the complaint. In Winfield, objectors said two village board candidates should be bounced from the ballot because they don't clearly state on their nominating petitions what office they're running for: The candidates said they're running for "trustee" when they should have said "village trustee." The local electoral board allowed the candidates, which included an incumbent, to remain on the ballot.

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"Local electoral board" refers to the specially convened panel that hears and rules on the objectors' arguments. In municipalities, it comprises the mayor, clerk and senior trustee/alderman. Some have argued this panel might have its own political fish to fry. A good example popped up in the often-contentious village of Island Lake, where Mayor Debbie Hermann and Clerk Connie Mascillino acknowledged a potential conflict of interest and recused themselves from hearing the objections to -- surprise -- another mayoral candidate and one of his running mates.

Sometimes, it could be argued, the will of a large segment of the local citizenry can be thwarted by the local electoral board. In Arlington Heights, resident Bill Gnech submitted petitions signed by more than 2,700 residents seeking a binding referendum on term limits. It would have called for village board members to serve no more for life after two terms on the village board. But the petition was denied by the board after objector Thomas Krausmann said the petition didn't specify when the term limits would go into effect, who would be affected and whether the rule would restrict people to holding any office for eight years. Krausmann also said the proposed ballot was confusing. (And if you'll indulge a quick side note, I ask if you've ever seen a referendum question, especially one to increase taxes, that wasn't at least a tiny bit confusing.) Anyway, the local electoral board upheld Krausmann's objections. No Arlington Heights term limits referendum on April 9.

The value of term limits could be, and has been, debated ad infinitum, but last week our editorial board, while acknowledging Gnech's petitions did indeed appear to be fraught with serious problems, also encouraged Arlington Heights officials to take careful heed of what appeared to be on the minds of quite a few people.

Plus, Gnech isn't giving up his campaign. Shortly after the electoral board hearing, he said, "As long as I'm breathing I'll keep trying to do this."


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