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Bowe v. Board of Election Commissioners of

decided: February 13, 1980.


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 80-C-70 -- George N. Leighton, Judge .

Before Fairchild, Chief Judge, and 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).


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 Bowe and intervening plaintiff Fisher sought inclusion on the ballot as candidates for Democratic Ward Committeemen in the 43rd and 10th wards of the City of Chicago, respectively. The other plaintiffs are voters who desire to vote for Bowe in the election. The defendants propose to omit both candidate plaintiffs from the ballot because they did not submit sufficient valid signatures on their nominating petitions to meet the minimum requirements of Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 46, § 7-10(i). This action was brought as a class action challenge to the constitutionality of the minimum signature requirement.

The plaintiffs sought preliminary injunctive relief to require the defendants to accept as valid the petitions of the candidate plaintiffs and those similarly situated, and to include their names on the ballot for the election. The district court denied preliminary injunctive relief, finding inter alia, insufficient likelihood of success on the merits. An injunction pending appeal was also denied.


It is settled that on appeal from the denial of a preliminary injunction, the question before us is whether the district court judge abused his discretion. Kolz v. Board of Education, 576 F.2d 747 (7th Cir. 1978). The question before us, then, is not whether the plaintiffs may be entitled to injunctive relief after this case is heard on the merits in the district court. All that has been decided by the district court is that the plaintiffs are entitled to no injunctive relief prior to the hearing on the merits.*fn2 We conclude that the district court judge did not abuse his discretion in making that determination.


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. Only the minimum signature requirement is at issue in this suit. Candidates for a variety of other offices are also included on the primary election ballot. The minimum signature requirements for most offices are set forth in Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 46, § 7-10.*fn3 As can be seen, some minimum requirements are set in terms of percentages of primary electors from the political subdivision (including the requirement for ward committeeman), others in terms of absolute numbers, and a few in terms of combinations of a percentage and an absolute number.

The defendants publish an "Election Calendar" which lists minimum signature requirements for the various offices. According to that document, Bowe was required to file at least 1,295 signatures. In fact, he filed 1,663, but the defendants have determined that only 1,260 of them are valid. Fisher was required to file 1,518. He filed more than that number, but only 1,340 of the signatures were determined to be valid. As a result, neither Bowe nor Fisher will be included on the ballot.


The complaint of the plaintiffs calls into question the 10% minimum signature requirement applied to Ward Committeemen as compared to minimum requirements applied to other offices. In particular, the plaintiffs have placed some emphasis on the contrast between the offices of Ward Committeeman and State Central Committeeman. A Ward Committeeman serves only a single ward in the City of Chicago. As a result of the 10% minimum requirement, Democratic candidates must collect hundreds of valid signatures to qualify. The minimum ranges from a low of 834 in the 28th Ward to a high of 2,280 in the 13th Ward. By contrast, a State Central Committeeman serves an entire Congressional ...

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