First district city council candidates Denise Moore and Randall Emert have filed formal objections to Gary Sandberg’s bid to run for the same office. They both claim that Sandberg does not meet the residency requirement per the state’s election code.
Emert’s challenge is simple: he says, “It is my understanding, that under law, a person has to have lived for one year at an address within the district a person files to run for in an election, such as City Council District seat. I maintain that Mr. Sandberg has not lived at his current address since November 26th, 2011.”
Illinois’ election code is confusing and contradictory — some would say purposefully so. As a result, it’s nearly impossible to do a “plain reading” of the code and draw any solid conclusions. Emert does not cite any specific Illinois statute, but merely repeats what has been published in the Journal Star: “According to an Illinois State Board of Elections representative, it appears Sandberg has to live at what he declares to be his home address for at least one year prior to the filing deadline, which this year was Nov. 26.” As with Emert’s challenge, the newspaper also does not cite any specific portion of the election code to back up this assertion, nor do they publish the name of the ISBE representative who provided this information.
Given that, let’s see if we can find what the residency requirement is. If you look at the 2013 Candidates Guide published by the Illinois State Board of Elections, you will see that there are four types of municipal governments covered on pages 21-30: Commission Form, Mayor-Alderman, President-Trustee, and Council-Manager. Peoria’s form of government is Council-Manager, so page 28 covers our elections.
Note first that it says: “The council-manager form is the only form of municipal government covered (for election of officers) by Article 5 of 65 ILCS/5.” So here we have a definite citation from the State’s municipal code. If you take the time to read through this code, you will find this section:
65 ILCS 5/5-2-18.3
Sec. 5-2-18.3. Selection of part of council at large and part from districts. If a city elects to choose part of the city council at large and part from districts, then the following provisions of this Section shall be applicable. The term of office of the mayor and councilman shall be 4 years, and the election of the mayor and councilmen shall be every 4 years after the first election. In addition to the requirements of the general election law, the ballots shall be in the form set out in Section 5-2-18.4 and 5-2-18.5. Sections 4-3-5 through 4-3-18, insofar as they may be applicable, shall govern the election of a mayor and councilmen under this Section.
(Source: P.A. 87-1119.)
Without getting into too much detail, suffice it to say that the sections cited do not require a councilman to live in a district for a year before he can run for office in that district. It does, however, require that he live within the district. 65 ILCS 5/5-2-18.7¶8 states, “One councilman who is an actual resident of the district, shall be elected from each district. Only the electors of a district shall elect a councilman from that district.” Getting back to the Candidates Guide, it has a section on page 28 that specifically states what the length of residency requirement is:
One-year residency in the municipality preceding the election. If a person (i) is a resident of a municipality immediately prior to the active duty military service of that person or that person’s spouse, (ii) resides anywhere outside of the municipality during that active duty military service, and (iii) immediately upon completion of that active duty military service is again a resident of the municipality, then the time during which the person resides outside the municipality during the active duty military service is deemed to be time during which the person is a resident of the municipality for purposes of determining the residency requirement.
[65 ILCS 5/3.1-10-5]
As you can see, there is no requirement stated here that one has to live in the district for a year before becoming eligible to run for district councilman. But we have another municipal code citation: 65 ILCS 5/3.1-10-5. I won’t quote the whole thing, but I will quote section (c) so we can see if this applies:
A person is not eligible for the office of alderman of a ward unless that person has resided in the ward that the person seeks to represent, and a person is not eligible for the office of trustee of a district unless that person has resided in the municipality, at least one year next preceding the election or appointment, except as provided in Section 3.1-20-25, subsection (b) of Section 3.1-25-75, Section 5-2-2, or Section 5-2-11.
Now here’s where it will be interesting to see how the board of elections interprets this. It would appear to me that this section does not apply to our form of government. It applies to “the office of alderman,” but that is not the same as the office of city councilman. Considering the Candidates Guide makes a clear distinction between the Mayor-Alderman and Council-Manager forms of government, it would appear that this provision of the code only applies to the Mayor-Alderman form of government. Section (a), on the other hand, applies to all municipal offices:
A person is not eligible for an elective municipal office unless that person is a qualified elector of the municipality and has resided in the municipality at least one year next preceding the election or appointment, except as provided in Section 3.1-20-25, subsection (b) of Section 3.1-25-75, Section 5-2-2, or Section 5-2-11.
Notice the difference in wording. It doesn’t say “alderman” here, but “elective municipal office,” which would apply to all forms of government. If section (c) had been intended to apply to all forms of government, it is reasonable to assume they would have used the same wording. Since they didn’t, it appears they intended to make a distinction in section (c) that is different from section (a). Section (a), just as the Candidates Guide indicated, says that candidates for elective office must have lived in the municipality for a year, but does not specify that they have to have resided within the district for a year.
Moore’s challenge to Sandberg’s residency is more sophisticated. She writes:
I intend to show that Mr. Sandberg could not and does not reside at the 1213 SW Adams street address listed on his Statement of Candidacy petition, and that his eligibility based upon his residency is not compliant with Illinois State Statute [65 ILCS 5/3.1-10.5]
The objections are grounded by information found in the State of Illinois Candidate’s Guide for 2013, Council-Manager Form of Government-Municipal; (page 28)
- Office: Mayor, Councilmen-at-large (and part from districts in some cities), Clerk, Treasurer.
- Residency: “One-year residency in the municipality preceding the election”.
With the acknowledgment of the wording “and part from districts in some cities”…I contend that ‘municipality’ in this case refers to the district in question and not the entire city as would be the case for an At-large race.
There’s a problem with her logic here. The phrase, “and part from districts in some cities,” is a reference to 65 ILCS 5/5-2-18.3, which was quoted above. The purpose of that phrase is not to restrict the meaning of “municipality,” as Moore contends, but rather to acknowledge that some cities with a Council-Manager form of government elect all their councilmen at large, and some cities elect part of their council at-large and part from districts.
These objections are based upon my belief that:
- Mr. Sandberg does not reside at the address listed on the petition filed for office of 1st District City Council.
- Mr. Sandberg has not met the length of residency requirement outlined in state statute.
- Mr. Sandberg’s Bigelow address was not impacted by the recent Redistricting.
We have already dealt with objection 2, as this is the same as Emert’s objection. Objection 3 is moot if there is no district residency requirement. So the only new objection here is Objection 1. Moore says:
Mr. Sandberg’s statement in the November 28, 2012 issue of the Peoria Journal Star. Mr. Sandberg states the property listed on his petition is “intended to be home for his son when he’s in the United States”. This would make Mr. Sandberg a temporary visitor rather than a permanent occupant. In addition, the property, like those adjacent to it, appear to have been vacant for a significant period of time and unable to support a tenant.
We’ve learned quite a bit about what it takes to establish residency here in Illinois, thanks to Rahm Emmanuel’s mayoral run in Chicago not that long ago. There’s also another recent case (2005) that deals with residency, People v. Baumgartner. This appellate court ruling stated:
[B]ecause eligibility to run for office is closely linked to the ability to vote within a particular jurisdiction, we will use the definition of “residence” as used within the Election Code for voter registration. [...]
Two elements are necessary to create a “residence” for voter registration purposes: physical presence and an intent to remain there as a permanent resident. Delk v. Board of Election Commissioners, 112 Ill. App. 3d 735, 738, 445 N.E.2d 1232, 1235 (1983). [...] To change residence, “there must be, both in fact and intention, an abandonment of the former residence and a new domicile acquired by actual residence, coupled with the intention to make it a permanent home.” Welsh v. Shumway, 232 Ill. 54, 77, 83 N.E. 549, 559 (1907).
If Sandberg has moved his voter registration and personal belongings to this new residence and is actually living there, as newspaper accounts indicate, then it would appear that he is a resident of that address in that district for the purposes of being a candidate for City Council.
That the building “appear[s] to have been vacant for a significant period of time and unable to support a tenant” is a valid challenge. It’s possible that an inspection could be done to determine if the property can, in fact, support a tenant, and perhaps Sandberg could be asked to produce witnesses who will attest to him in fact living there.
However, Moore goes off track in saying that because Sandberg does not actually own the building, he cannot be a resident. In addition to quoting Sandberg’s statement to the Journal Star, she continues:
In addition, the most recent information (dated 11/27/2012 attached) provided by the Peoria County Assessors’ office indicates the address in question, 1213 SW Adams Street, is owned by Sue D. Johnson, not Mr. Sandberg. [...] Mr. Sandberg’s statement in the November 28, 2012 issue of the Peoria Journal Star indicate the property was purchased in the summer of 2012. As such, Mr. Sandberg could not have lived at the address for the required 12-months as outlined int he state statute cited above.
Mrs. Moore may be surprised to learn that many of the residents in her district do not actually own the home in which they live. They might be surprised to learn that Mrs. Moore does not consider them “residents” because of this. The point is, one can reside in a home without owning it. The ownership of the property can even be transferred while a tenant continues to occupy that property. So appeals to the property’s ownership are completely immaterial in this case.
As stated earlier, the state’s election rules are difficult to decipher. Emert and Moore could very well prevail in their challenge based on an interpretation or conflicting statute I haven’t been able to contemplate. But based on my layman’s reading of the materials available, it appears there is a requirement that a candidate live in the district he seeks to represent, and there is a requirement that a candidate live in the municipality for a year in order to be eligible to run for council, but there is apparently no requirement that a candidate live in a specific district within that municipality for a specified period of time before he is eligible to run for district councilman.
And that, ultimately, is the point. Candidates for City Council are not experts in state election law, nor should they be required to be. They read the information available to them and do their best to abide by the rules as they understand them. Sandberg was also quoted in the media as saying that he read the Candidates Guide and saw no district residency requirement. If it turns out there is one, perhaps the State Board of Elections should rewrite their Candidates Guide to make that clear, so no other well-meaning candidates get led astray.
Note: The post above has been revised to remove ambiguity. Specifically, I have tried to make it clearer that there is a residency requirement, but there is apparently no length of residency required in the district to be eligible to run as a district councilman.