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Comments

  • Karrie E. Alms: Amazing insight into the world of politics awaits any reader at pibgorn … from a Demon’s...
  • Tony: Homefield is Dynegy. Dynegy is Ameren. There Charging You twice for the same energy. Do you really thihk $.04...
  • SouthEnder: Also does anyone remember the Velvet Freeze located on Jefferson St, up the street from the Warner Homes....
  • Eric Pollitt: I flew economy class to Hong Kong for Christmas vacation, which is a 14 hour flight. When I got back...
  • Mike: Homefield has been sold to dynery. Google dynegy scandal to see who your new parent is. If this upsets you give...
  • mortified: Fun while it lasted. Godspeed!
  • aaron: your blogging will be missed but i know that your spirit of fairness will remain alive in your other...
  • Jon: CJ, your blog was a revelation and an inspiration. You have a wonderful talent that is an asset to the...
  • Billy Dennis: Of course the Chronicle is done: Screw you. The Chronicle is one of the best researched blogs...
  • Paul Wilkinson: CJ, am sorry you have ended your blog. It was well done. It seems many have given up as we keep...
  • Sharon Crews: Your voice is definitely needed in this community. Thanks for all your insights.
  • emergepeoria: Your blog is great resource to research Peoria issues. I hope you leave it up.
  • BucketHead: I was not suggesting that, I believe the both of you had very strong common sense and that lead to your...
  • C. J. Summers: Without anonymity, there is no courage among my detractors. Take a look back at the wide variety of...
  • Of course the Chronicle is done: Without Sandberg to give stores to the Chronicle there is no Chronicle.

County Clerk throws out petitions without challenge

There’s an article in the print edition of the Journal Star today that I can’t find online. The headline is “Peoria County tosses ‘Block the Bonds’ petition,” with a subhead, “County Clerk rules Citizens for Responsible Spending failed to comply with Election Code.” Here’s what it says:

There will be no referendum on the issue of the bonds to pay for construction of the Peoria Riverfront Museum.

On Friday, Peoria County Clerk Steve Sonnemaker ruled the petitions filed to place the question on the ballot to be in “nonconformity of the Election Code.”

About 1,700 signatures were filed with the Peoria county Clerk’s Office on Monday requesting a referendum, far short of the 9,849 signatures the Citizens for Responsible Spending needed to withstand challenges to getting a question on the February or April ballots in Peoria County.

In a news release, Sonnemaker said the petitions “on their face, lack the required number of signatures and, therefore, do not comply with the Election Code.”

“The change in policy at this time is due to recent court cases that appear to require that the clerk has a duty to examine petitions to determine whether upon their face they are in apparent conformity with the Election Code. The State’s Attorney has this week addressed these court cases in a letter to the county clerk and advised that the clerk should examine for apparent conformity of the petitions based on the requirements of the Election Code and therefore, no referendum issue should be placed on the ballot,” the release states.

“Previously the clerk did not examine petitions for apparent conformity but relied on petition challenges that would be resolved by a three member Electoral Board as in keeping with policy set by the State Board of Elections.”

But Sonnemaker also said, “any action taken by the county clerk regarding petition conformity may be subject to challenge.”

Citizens for Responsible Spending mounted a monthlong petition drive aimed at halting the issuance of $41.6 [sic] million in bonds to help pay for the construction of the $140 million museum project shortly after the City Council and County Board approved redevelopment agreements allowing for construction to commence.

The group also was concerned that the project’s scope has changed since voters endorsed an April 2009 referendum, pumping $40 million of local sales taxes into the project. Some examples of the changes included the possibility an IMAX-brand theater might not be part of the project, the use of general obligation bonds to finance the project instead of revenue bonds and that state grants to move forward with construction have not yet been received.

The relevant statute is 10 ILCS 5/10-8, which states in part, “petitions to submit public questions to a referendum, being filed as required by this Code, and being in apparent conformity with the provisions of this Act, shall be deemed to be valid unless objection thereto is duly made in writing within 5 business days after the last day for filing the … petition for a public question.”

In court cases People ex rel. Giese v. Dillon (1914), North v. Hinkle (1998), and Haymore v. Orr (2008), Illinois courts have consistently found that the County Clerk has the authority to make certain judgments about whether petitions are “in apparent conformity with the provisions of [the] Act.” One of those judgments has to do with whether enough signatures have been gathered. The Haymore decision states:

[T]he Illinois Supreme Court explained that the responsibility for determining whether an election petition apparently conforms to the law rests with the town clerk. Dillon, 266 Ill. at 275-76. Specifically, the clerk’s duty is “to determine whether, upon the face of the petition, it is in compliance with the law.” Dillon, 266 Ill. at 276. If the petition on its face appears to comply with the statutory requisites, the clerk may not look outside the petition to determine whether in fact it does comply; he must submit the question to the voters.

For example, the Clerk cannot determine on the face of a petition whether the signatures are valid, or whether the person circulating the petitions met the legal requirements to do so.

However, the court continued, had the petition not appeared on its face to have complied with the statutory requisites, the clerk would have had no duty to submit the question to the voters. Dillon, 266 Ill. at 276. For example, by examining the face of the petition, a clerk can determine whether it contains the requisite number of signatures. Dillon, 266 Ill. at 276. If it does not, the petition is not in apparent conformity with the election statutes and the clerk has no duty to certify the question for the ballot. Dillon, 266 Ill. at 276.

So, based on that case law, the State’s Attorney has apparently instructed the County Clerk to throw out the petitions. It’s really a moot point because the petitions couldn’t withstand a challenge anyway. Still, it’s interesting that this is apparently the first time the Peoria County Clerk has made this kind of decision, since the State’s Attorney had to tell him to do it, and the Clerk felt it necessary to publish a press release about it.

17 comments to County Clerk throws out petitions without challenge

  • peoriafan

    let it go….

  • New Voice

    peoriafan,

    Why?

  • Here’s a link to the PJStar editorial on the museum in the Oct. 3 paper. This says it all.
    http://www.pjstar.com/opinions.....ith-museum

  • heavy handed...

    it could possibly make a private citizen decide against going public with questions about public policy.

  • Anita

    Jeez. Why cant you just accept the writing on the wall and just move on? Get over it already. And yes, Elaine is correct. Please, you folks from the “Citizens for Responsible Spending,” please please read this editorial from the PJS. It is one of the very few PJS editorials I agree with. Time to grow up and accept the results — even though you don’t agree with it — like adults with dignity and class instead of stomping your feet like children who didn’t get their way.

  • Tom

    Actually the county clerk has been checking petitions for “apparent conformity” since at least 2006 and most likely long before that. The county clerk has a checkoff sheet that is fill out by the clerk when you file petitions, with the purpose of being a receipt but also confirms that all the paperwork, including the number of signature pages, is present.

    This isn’t a change in policy, and was also used by the Kickapoo Township Clerk in 2009 to not place a candidate for road commissioner on the ballot. The candidate less than half of the needed signatures.

  • District 150 observer

    I think the PJS museum petition editrial today had it right on so many fronts.

  • peoriafan

    The block the bonds group made sure they got lots of PR when they announced their intentions and then pretty much dropped the ball after that. It’s like they never followed through with any of it. Wouldn’t even discuss it on their blogs. As much as I don’t care for Widmer he at least held up his end as much as one person could. Sounds like the rest let him down even. And now that its over CJ is still complaining. Like someone else said- grow up guys.

  • Peoriafan — Thanks for the input.

  • TR64

    Ummn…your boss’s wife is handing out cones (Build The Block) at the March Madness. What are you gonna do…sign the petition and put on record for the end of time you spoke out against…never mind.

  • New Voice

    I have switched any and all effort from debunking the museum ‘myth’ to getting all of my family,friends, etc, to cancel their J Star subscriptions.

    “The group also was concerned that the project’s scope has changed since voters endorsed an April 2009 referendum, pumping $40 million of local sales taxes into the project. Some examples of the changes included the possibility an IMAX-brand theater might not be part of the project, the use of general obligation bonds to finance the project instead of revenue bonds and that state grants to move forward with construction have not yet been received….”

    Sounds like a hell of a list to me, especially when a theater down the road might pick up an IMAX. The J STAR and the rest of you ‘supporters’ can’t seem to generate one solid argument for this project…NEVER HAVE, NEVER WILL.

    Who is acting LIKE CHILDREN here?!? The people who question the abuses of political power, overspending, etc. or the people who will hold their breath until they get what they want…EVEN WHEN THEY KNOW IT IS NOT GOOD FOR THEM!!

  • New Voice

    That is the longest, most obnoxious letter I have ever seen the Star print. The Star must have had every blowhard writer they [still] have on staff bending over for three weeks straight to generate that much crap.

  • If there were fewer cases of petitioners trying to get on the ballot for a contest with less than the required amount of signatures maybe the SA would not be emphatic on apparent conformity. There comes to mind a local petitioner who has done such an action.

    Depending on challenges to be the vehicle of ballot purity might not be the way to attain equal ballot access.

    Groups or individuals can and will submit ballot challenges now and in the future. Election authorities still must perform their duties regardless of the presence or lack of presence of valid challenges.

  • Karrie E. Alms

    CFRS has played a role in shaping our county clerk’s responsibilities by filing the referendum petitions. Please let me explain about the apparent conformity issue.

    “The change in policy at this time is due to recent court cases that appear to require that the clerk has a duty to examine petitions to determine whether upon their face they are in apparent conformity with the Election Code. The State’s Attorney has this week addressed these court cases in a letter to the county clerk and advised that the clerk should examine for apparent conformity of the petitions based on the requirements of the Election Code and therefore, no referendum issue should be placed on the ballot,” the release states.

    The ‘recent court cases’ are from 2008. There has been no change to the county clerk’s responsibilities to check for ‘apparent conformity’ until AFTER the recent petitions were filed.

    In June 2010, a citizen filed an independent ballot to run as an independent candidate for Peoria County Board District #3. I was told verbally by a county board member of this event. I went to the clerk’s office and FOIA’d a copy of the candidate’s petitions. I noticed that the number of signatures was less than needed and that some of the signatures were not within District #3. I asked the question if the county clerk’s staff checked the petitions to see if the petitions met the requirements. I was informed that the clerk “only receives and files the petitions’ and does not check too see if the number of signatures is enough, or if the signatures are within the district. That if I did not agree with the petitions that I could file an objection. [The story was related that a person had submitted a petition to run for President with only one signature and because no objection was filed, that the person was allowed to run for President.] I was really amazed at this answer, nevertheless, I accepted the answer given as the correct answer.

    I did not file an objection, instead, I went and talked with the independent candidate and explained the situation. The candidate wanted to think about options. Interestingly enough, the candidate was served the next morning with a summons (as I recall) to appear to respond to an objection which had been filed against the independent candidates petitions for lack of conformity. The candidate withdrew the petitions in question and the matter was resolved.

    Just four (4) months later, the filing of the petitions by CFRS has helped the ‘apparent conformity’ policy to be clarified by the State’s Attorney office for a new procedure to be implemented by the county clerk’s office based on recent (2008) court cases.

    Perhaps there will need to be additional policy clarification for a perhaps unintended conflict of interest for the county clerk. While the county clerk is supposed to check for ‘apparent conformity’ of petitions presumably both for perspective office holders as well as referendum questions, in talking with the county clerk, if I am understanding this correctly, the county clerk will be on the review board if any objections are filed. So, would the county clerk, then in essence and fact, be reviewing the ‘correctness’ of the county clerk’s apparent conformity’ decision? If so, would that be a ‘conflict of interest’?

  • [...] Clerk throws out petitions without challenge (The Peoria Chronicle) There’s an article in the print edition of the Journal Star today that [the author of the blog] [...]

  • SD

    Well those of us that did collect signatures did our best. We tried and that is all you can ask. If someone wants to go around the back door and knit pick something to make it invalid there is not much we can do about it. The best we can do now is say, “We told you so”, when all that we predict happens and the taxpayer continues to pay for this debacle for the rest of their lives. My only complaint at this point is if we are going to have to pay through the nose for this please at least give us the full Monty in the way of a fabulous museum. Make our dollars worth something.

  • Karrie E. Alms

    I have now found out that if the clerk did not certify petitions and the petitioner felt that they should be certified, you would have to file a writ … I think of Mandamus. CFRS performed a valuable community service to bring this error to light by filing the petitions and another party having an inquiry made about the responsibilties of the clerk and the filing of an objection.