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CITIZENS PARTY v. ILL. STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS

August 6, 1982

CITIZENS PARTY OF ILLINOIS BRUCE D. KAPLAN, LOUIS HIRSCH, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, COMMUNIST PARTY OF ILLINOIS, RICHARD L. GIOVANONI, AND ELIZABETH MITTERER, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, ARTHUR L. TURNER PARTY, ARTHUR L. TURNER, AND DELORES SIMS, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS J. PHIL GILBERT, MICHAEL J. HAMBLET, JOHN W. COUNTRYMAN, RICHARD A. OWEN, CAROLYN R. EYRE, JOSHUA JOHNSON, JOHN J. LANIGAN, AND THERESA M. PETRONE, IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITIES AS MEMBERS OF THE ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Getzendanner, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Invoking 42 U.S.C. § 1988, plaintiffs seek an order temporarily enjoining defendants' proposed enforcement of Section 10-2 of the Illinois Election Code. For the reasons to follow, plaintiffs' motion for relief is granted.

I.

Plaintiffs Citizens Party of Illinois, Communist Party of Illinois, and Arthur L. Turner Party are unincorporated associations principally headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Each wishes to place on the November 1982 ballot a candidate for election to the Illinois House of Representatives. Each is a non-"established political party" as that term is defined under Illinois law.

Plaintiffs Bruce D. Kaplan, Richard L. Giovanoni, and Representative Arthur L. Turner are the proposed candidates of the Citizens Party, the Communist Party, and the Arthur L. Turner Party,*fn1 respectively. Plaintiff Louis Hirsch alleges that he is registered to vote and that he wishes to vote for Kaplan. Plaintiffs Elizabeth Mitterer and Delores Sims make similar allegations with respect to Giovanoni and Turner.

Defendant Illinois State Board of Elections is the administrative body charged with enforcing the Illinois Election Code. The individually named defendants sit on and comprise the Board.

By virtue of the Election Code, "political groups" that poll more than 5% of the vote in a gubernatorial election are recognized as "established political parties." Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 46, § 10-2. As such, their duly nominated candidates are automatically entitled to placement on the printed ballot in the next subsequent election. id., § 10-1.*fn2 All other political groups must petition for this right. Specifically, a non-"established" organization that wishes to field candidates in some, but not all, of the races to be held in an election*fn3 must submit for each contest a petition "signed by qualified voters equaling in number not less than 5% of the number of voters who voted at the next preceding regular election in such district or political subdivision in which such district or political subdivision voted as a unit for the election of officers to serve its respective territorial area," Id., § 10-2. However, because the 1982 elections are the first to follow a redistricting, a special rule governs the plaintiffs' present access to the ballot: "For the first election following a redistricting of legislative districts, a petition to form a new political party in a legislative district shall be signed by at least 3,000 qualified voters of the legislative district." Id.*fn4 Defendants' interpretation of the latter provision lies at the heart of this controversy.

Prior to the November 1980 elections, Illinois contained 59 "legislative districts." Each "district" elected one Senator and three Representatives. The votes for the latter office were cast on a cumulative basis. In 1980 the voters approved the so-called "Cutback Amendment" to the Illinois Constitution. This measure drastically altered the foregoing arrangement. Under the present law, Senators are still elected from 59 "Legislative Districts," but Representatives are now elected from 118 separate "Representative Districts," each district electing one Representative. Each "Legislative District" contains two "Representative Districts."

The Illinois Legislature has not yet completely amended the Election Code to reflect the changes brought forth by the "Cutback Amendment." This failure to act has generated considerable confusion as to the interrelationship between these two bodies of law. An Advisory Opinion prepared by the General Counsel to the State Board of Elections highlights the most glaring incongruity:

  Section 10-2, when enumerating the various districts
  and political subdivisions for which new political
  parties can be formed, still refers to "legislative"
  districts but makes no reference to the
  recently-created representative districts. If read
  literally, Section 10-2 would thus permit the
  formation of a new political party for candidates for
  the office of State Senator, but would not permit
  ballot access to new political parties for candidates
  to the office of Representative.
  Having already concluded that the term "legislative"
  district, as it appears in Section 10-2, should be
  construed to refer to either a Legislative District or
  a Representative District, as the case may be, (as
  they exist in Article IV of the Constitution, as
  amended), it is my opinion that for purposes of the
  November 2, 1982, General Election, a new political
  party petition for candidates for either the office of
  State Senator or the office of Representative must
  contain at least 3,000 qualified voters of either the
  Legislative District or the Representative District,
  respectively.

Id. at 9.

Plaintiffs challenge the last interpretation as being unduly restrictive of their right to be on the ballot. They argue that a new party seeking the election of one of its members to the House is doubly burdened compared to a second party wishing to elect one of its members to the Senate. This is so because while both entities need 3,000 signatures, the party interested in the Senate seat can draw from an available pool of voters that is roughly twice as large. Plaintiffs further contend that this discrimination serves no rational purpose. For under the Board's construction of the statutory term "legislative district," in every election that does not follow a redistricting, both Senate and House candidates are obligated to file signatures in an amount that equals the same percentage — five — of the votes cast in the preceding election held in the relevant electoral district. Thus, in every election but one, plaintiffs suffer no discrimination whatsoever, rendering the discrimination which does occur "freakish" and irrational. Plaintiffs conclude that the Equal Protection clause has been violated, and that, in the interest of parity, they should be required to submit only 1,500 signatures. They seek an order to this effect.

II.

A preliminary injunction can issue only if:

  (1) The plaintiffs have no adequate remedy at law and
      will be irreparably harmed if the ...

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