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Richards v. Lavelle

decided: February 13, 1980.

THOMAS J. RICHARDS, JAMES HICKS, AND JAMES TWINE, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,
v.
MICHAEL E. LAVELLE, MARIE H. SUTHERS, AND CORNEAL A DAVIS, IN THEIR CAPACITY AS MEMBERS OF THE BOARD OF ELECTION COMMISSIONERS OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, STATE OF ILLINOIS, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS, CECIL A. PARTEE AND HOWARD L. STEVENSON, INTERVENING DEFENDANTS



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 80-C-154 -- James B. Moran, Judge.

Before Fairchild, Chief Judge, Swygert and Sprecher, Circuit Judges.

Author: Per Curiam

This appeal has been briefed on an emergency basis, due to the time constraints faced by the defendants, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners and its members, in arranging for ballots to be printed for the primary election to be held on March 18, 1980. Under Rule 34 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, we have decided this appeal without oral argument. Due to the emergency nature of the appeal, we have dispensed with the notice generally provided under Circuit Rule 14(f).

I

A primary election will be held in the City of Chicago on March 18, 1980.*fn1 Pursuant to Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 46, § 7-13, the defendants are responsible for certifying the names of candidates to be included on the ballot for this election.

Plaintiff Richards sought inclusion on the ballot as a candidate for Democratic Ward Committeeman in the 20th Ward of the City of Chicago. The other plaintiffs are voters who desire to vote for Richards in the election. The defendants propose to omit Richards from the ballot because he submitted more signatures on his nominating petition than the maximum permitted by Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 46, § 7-10(i). This action was brought to challenge the constitutionality of removing Richards from the ballot.

On January 28, 1980, the district court filed a Memorandum and Order, 483 F. Supp. 732, which had the effect of permanently enjoining the defendants from failing to include Richards' name on the ballot, and they were directed to place his name on the ballot. A stay pending appeal was denied by the district court and by this court. We did, however, set this case on an emergency schedule so that we would have an opportunity to address the merits prior to the time that the election ballots are actually printed.

II

A person seeking inclusion on the ballot as a candidate for Ward Committeeman must meet a number of requirements under the Illinois Election Code, Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 46. This suit solely relates to the validity of the maximum signature requirement imposed on some offices by Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 46, § 7-10, as enforced by removal from the ballot. The statute imposes maximum signature requirements for state offices, for delegates elected from the state at large, for ward committeemen and for township committeemen.*fn2

It is undisputed that the defendants publish information listing, where applicable, maximum signature requirements. In fact, Richards testified that he was aware of the maximum imposed of 1716, and that he intended to file a petition containing 1695 signatures. However, apparently through mathematical error by Richards, the petition which he actually filed contained 2083 signatures.

Ultimately, the defendants sustained an objection to Richards' petition on the ground that it contained more signatures than the permitted maximum, and certified to the County Clerk that Richards' name was not to be printed on the ballot.

III

The parties disagree almost completely as to the proper method of analysis to be applied in deciding this case. They disagree as to whether the "strict scrutiny" or "rational basis" test applies, as to whether the statute implicates fundamental rights of the plaintiffs, and as to whether the state demonstrated a compelling state interest to support its action, a rational basis, or no basis whatsoever.

For the sake of clarity, we will first summarize the conclusions of the district court. The district court held that the fundamental rights of the voters were not sufficiently implicated to trigger strict scrutiny, and that there were no excessive burdens on identifiable classes of voters. As a result, the maximum limitation was analyzed to determine whether it was supported by a rational basis. The district court found a rational basis in providing an orderly election procedure, but concluded that there was no rational relationship between the interest which the state asserted and the sanction applied by removing a candidate from the ballot. The district court concluded that the ballot denial was ...


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