Evanston aldermen Monday are scheduled to discuss whether to hold a referendum to seek approval for what’s been past practice in the city of holding nonpartisan elections for city offices.
If they decide not to, then it appears Evanston would have to revert to the default pattern for Illinois municipalities — of having candidates for office nominated through partisan political primaries.
In a memo to the City Council’s Rules Committee, Assistant City Attorney Hugh DuBose says records from the League of Women Voters and the Illinois Election Commission shows the city has generally run nonpartisan elections in every election year since 2005 and in most prior years for which records could be located.
But the search found no record of a referendum being held to authorize the nonpartisan election process.
DuBose says the state election commission general counsel office told him that grandathering in Evanston’s current election practices without a referendum is not authorized by state law.
Questions around petition filing deadlines and other matters linked to the nonpartisan election issue became a major issue in the 2017 city election which played a role in efforts by some candidates to have their opponents kicked off the ballot.
The next regular election is March 17 next year, and under state law the council would have to pass a resolution authorizing the referendum no later than Dec. 30 to add the referendum to the ballot.
If the nonpartisan election issue is not addressed by voters next March, the next opportunity to have a referendum on it would be in the presidential election next November.
That would likely create confusion about which process would be followed for the municipal election the following April — since many candidates for mayor and aldermen would already have launched their campaigns by that point.
The Rules Committee meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday in the Council Chambers at the Civic Center.