A recent Illinois Appellate Court decision provides some insight on how electoral boards can address objections to candidate nominating petitions that exceed the maximum number of signatures under state law. Ghiles v. MOEB, 2019 IL App (1st) 190117.
Section 10-3 of the Illinois Election Code sets out the signature requirements for certain types of candidates for local office. That section requires a candidate to file nomination papers signed by not less than 5%, nor more than 8% (or 50 more than the minimum, whichever is greater) of voters in the last election who voted for local elected officers.
A candidate for mayor filed nomination papers containing 736 signatures. The minimum number of signatures required for that office was 139, and the maximum number was 221, based on the above-statute. An objection was filed to challenge the candidate’s nomination papers on various grounds, which was heard by the local electoral board. In reviewing the nomination papers to determine whether the objection was valid, the electoral board only reviewed challenges to 221 signatures (the statutory maximum), and disregarded all of the remaining signatures. In deciding which of the 221 signatures to review, the electoral board started at the bottom of the 81 pages of nomination petition, counting from the last signature on the last page and working backwards. After the electoral board struck invalid signatures from the 221 it reviewed, the board concluded that the candidate did not have enough signatures to remain on the ballot. As a result, the electoral board ordered the candidate’s name to be struck from the ballot.
The candidate sued, challenging the electoral board’s decision. Specifically, the candidate argued that the electoral board should have started its review of the first 221 signatures filed, and not the last signatures.
The case made its way to the Illinois Appellate Court, which upheld the electoral board’s decision, finding no error in the board disregarding the excess signatures and drawing from the bottom of the stack of petitions. The Court did note that an electoral board should not strike all of the nomination papers solely because the petitions exceed the statutory maximum number of signatures, but that it was fair and reasonable for the electoral board to disregard the excess signatures.