Wednesday, August 25, 2010

No independent judicial candidates after all

Back at the end of June, this blog reported that two lawyers had filed to run as independents in the November election. Keith Thiel, filed to run against Judge Daniel A. Pierce, the otherwise-unopposed Democratic nominee for the "A" vacancy in the 14th Judicial Subcircuit. Roger Zamparo filed petitions seeking to challenge Ann Finley Collins, the unopposed Democratic nominee for the Riley vacancy in Cook County's 11th Judicial Subcircuit.

Both candidacies have come to an apparent end.

After challenges were filed to his nominating petitions, Thiel withdrew his candidacy.

Zamparo contested the petition to knock him off the ballot, but the Cook County Electoral Board ruled against him. (That's a link to the Board's August 6 decision.) Essentially, although Zamparo's petitions complied with the signature requirements published by the Illinois State Board of Elections for this election, the challengers argued, and the Electoral Board agreed, that, under a proper interpretation of §10-3 of the Election Code, 10 ILCS 5/10-3, the numbers were wrong.

Basically, to keep outsiders on the outside, the law provides that a wannabe candidate must calculate the proper number of required signatures on his or her own. The Electoral Board found there were two arguable numbers Zamparo could have used (Electoral Board decision at p. 2, footnote omitted):
The Objector's Petition describes the Candidates nomination papers as having 2,518 non-stricken signatures. Objector maintains that, following the provision of §10-3 of the Election Code [10 ILCS 5/10-3], the proper way to calculate the minimum signature level is to use the total number of voters who came to the polls in 2008 in the 11th sub-circuit, 87,254 (according to figures from the election authorities), and take 5% of that figure. This gives 4,362 signatures. Alternately, one could take 5% of the total number of votes received by the only candidate for election in the sub-circuit, 63,722, take 5% of that number and get a signature level of 3,186. But, Objector contends that the State Board number of 1,879 has no plausible basis in fact and must be an error. Since Candidate has submitted fewer signatures than either of these two possible signature levels, then his petition is inadequate.
Moreover, the Board held that Zamparo was not entitled to rely on the petition requirements published by the State Board of Elections (decision, p. 4, emphasis in original):
There is a natural tendency to be sympathetic to an individual who finds himself in the position of this Candidate. It seems not at all unreasonable for him to claim a right to rely on what the State Board of Elections published, despite the Board's printed-in-bold disclaimer "Legal information contained in this guide is not binding and should not be construed as sufficient argument in response to an objection to any candidate's nominating papers." But the Board itself seems to claim a right to limit others' claims of reliance by the use of this language, especially the phrase: "should not be construed as sufficient response to an objection."
Assuming that there is no court challenge to the Board's decision (and I would hope someone might let me know if one has been filed) Zamparo's brief candidacy is also at an end.

This restores the status quo that was established by the February primary: There is exactly one contested judicial race, the countywide race for the McCarthy vacancy.

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