In Buchanan v. Jones, an Appellate Court upheld the constitutionality of a 2019 state statute as applied to a 2016 referendum that limited the terms of office for individuals elected to the office of village president.
On November 8, 2016, a majority of voters in a municipality who voted in the general election approved the following referendum:
Shall the terms of office of those persons elected to the office of Village President in the Village of Broadview, at the April 4, 2017 consolidated election, and each election for said office thereafter, be limited such that no person shall be eligible to seek election or hold the office of Village President where that person has been previously elected to the office of Village President of the Village of Broadview for two consecutive full four year terms?
On July 19, 2019, the General Assembly amended the Illinois Municipal Code to add Section 3.1-10-17, which provides, in relevant part, that:
(a) The imposition of term limits by referendum, ordinance, or otherwise must be prospective. Elective office held prior to the effective date of any term limit imposed by a municipality shall not prohibit a person otherwise eligible from running for or holding elective office in that municipality. Term limits imposed in a manner inconsistent with this Section remain valid prospectively, but are invalid as they apply to service prior to the enactment of the term limits.
(d) This Section applies to all term limits imposed by a municipality by referendum, ordinance, or otherwise passed on or after November 8, 2016.” 65 ILCS 5/3.1-10-17.
A candidate for the office of village president filed nomination papers for the April 6, 2021 municipal election. A registered voter filed objections to the candidate’s nomination papers with the Municipal Officers Electoral Board. Specifically, the objector argued that the candidate was not eligible to seek election to or hold the office of village president because he had previously been elected to that office for two consecutive full four-year terms and was barred from running again due to the 2016 referendum.
On January 26, 2021, the Electoral Board dismissed the objection and ordered the candidate’s name to appear on the April 6, 2021 ballot. The Electoral Board reasoned that based on the language of the 2019 statute, any term that the candidate served as village president prior to November 8, 2016 should not be included in determining his eligibility to run for the office of village president in the April 6, 2021 election. The circuit court upheld the Board’s decision and Buchanan appealed.
On appeal, the objector argued that the 2019 statute was unconstitutional as applied to the 2016 referendum because it nullified the past results of a valid election, which established term limits for individuals holding the office of village president and determined who was ineligible to seek election to or hold that office.
The Appellate Court rejected the objector’s argument, finding that the 2016 referendum was silent as to whether service as village president prior to the referendum’s adoption should be considered in calculating consecutive terms. The Court reasoned that the new statute only places a limitation on the way that term limits are calculated in elections taking place after July 19, 2019, the effective date of the statute. As a result, the Court held that the statute was not unconstitutional as applied to the 2016 referendum, and the candidate was eligible to run for the office of village president.
Post authored by Rain Montero & Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink