Evanston aldermen this week asked the city’s legal staff to come up with revisions to the city code to — as Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, put it — avoid a repeat “of the debacle” surrounding last year’s municipal election.

Confusion over the correct filing period for the election last year led to a series of challenges seeking to oust most of the five mayoral candidates from the ballot — challenges that ultimately were rejected by the city’s Electoral Board.

“Clearly there were some ambiguities and uncertainties in the rules,” said Mayor Steve Hagerty, the ultimate victor in the mayoral contest.

The state election code has complex rules for conducting elections that vary depending on whether a community holds partisan or non-partisan elections.

In a partisan system candidates are chosen in party political primaries. In a non-partisan system candidates run without party affiliation.

Evanston has in practice held non-partisan elections at least since it adopted the council-manager form of government in 1952, City Clerk Devon Reid said, but he said he hasn’t been able to find anything in the city code that specifies that the elections are to be non-partisan.

Further complicating the issue is that the state election code, at 65 ILCS 5/3.1-20-45, says that in non-partisan elections a primary is only conducted if more than four candidates submit sufficient nominating petitions to qualify for the ballot.

Evanston voters in 1992 approved a referendum calling for holding a primary for mayor if more than two candidates were running. A primary was held in 1993 when there were five candidates for mayor, but not in 2009 when there were four mayoral candidates.

The state supreme court , in Jackson-Hicks v. East St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners (2015), held that because of the possibility that a primary might be required, candidates must file their petitions by the filing deadline for the primary, even though in many cases no primary will actually be held.

But for most of the petition-circulating period ahead of the 2017 election, then City Clerk Rodney Greene indicated that petitions would be due during the December filing period for the general election rather than the November period for the primary.

That led to a variety of challenges, with a supporter of Alderman Brian Miller, who filed first for mayor, seeking to have the three other candidates who filed in November kicked off the ballot, while attorney Jeff Smith, who filed in December, sought to have the four who filed in November removed.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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1 Comment

  1. Do not create another committee

    Hopefully this issue can be resolved without creating another committee

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