Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Judge Maryam Ahmad will/will not be write-in candidate against Rhonda Crawford

Shortly after announcing her write-in candidacy for the Hopkins vacancy in the 1st Subcircuit, the Chicago Board of Elections ruled Judge Maryam Ahmad ineligible.

Judge Ahmad was defeated in her attempt gain nomination to the 1st Subcircuit Brim vacancy in the March primary; this was the seat to which she had been appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court. She planned to run as a write-in candidate for the 1st Subcircuit Hopkins vacancy. Rhonda Crawford is the duly nominated Democratic candidate for this vacancy. Crawford faced no Republican opposition in November. However, after it was learned that she had pretended to be a judge already, hearing at least two cases in the Markham Courthouse, Crawford was dismissed from her job as a law clerk in the Chief Judge's office. Being as delicate as possible here, the episode does not reflect well on Ms. Crawford, or on her judgment. Judge Ahmad's supporters wanted to present her as a credible alternative to Ms. Crawford.

A potential obstacle to Judge Ahmad's candidacy is suggested by Section 17-16.1 of the Election Code, 10 ILCS 5/17-16.1. The statute provides, in pertinent part, "Write-in votes shall be counted only for persons who have filed notarized declarations of intent to be write-in candidates with the proper election authority or authorities not later than 61 days prior to the election."

But not everyone who files a proper declaration of intent can be a write-in candidate. The statute also provides, "A candidate for whom a nomination paper has been filed as a partisan candidate at a primary election, and who is defeated for his or her nomination at the primary election is ineligible to file a declaration of intent to be a write-in candidate for election in that general or consolidated election." There is identical language in Section 18-9.1 of the Election Code, Article 18 being the Chicago-specific statute, applicable to the conduct of elections and making of returns in municipalities under the jurisdiction of boards of election commissioners.

I've heard these provisions referred to colloquially as the 'sore loser' provision -- and this confused me initially, until I'd had the chance to review the actual statutory language.

A true 'sore loser' provision would simply prevent Candidate Jones, who lost to Candidate Smith in the primary, from trying to force a rematch in the general election.

If the relevant language of the applicable statute is read as a true 'sore loser' provision, Ahmad should be permitted to pursue her write-in candidacy against Crawford. And, according to an article in last evening's Law Bulletin, this is the tack that Judge Ahmad's election law attorney, Burton S. Odelson, will take in a mandamus suit he plans to file (and may have filed already) against the Chicago Board of Elections.

The actual language of the statute, however, would seem to preclude a candidate defeated in the primary from seeking any office whatsoever in the general.

Mr. Odelson, however, is an expert in election law; I am anything but. So I will refrain from making any grandiose predictions and await further developments....

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