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SMITH v. BD. OF ELECTION COM'RS FOR CITY OF CHICAGO

March 9, 1984

ED H. SMITH, MICHAEL REMBERT, DANNY K. DAVIS, HERBERT PAYNE, ALLAN STREETER, JULIUS HAMMOND, DOROTHY TILLMAN, LOVIE COPELAND, GEORGE H. EDDINGS AND JOHN DAVIS, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE BOARD OF ELECTION COMMISSIONERS FOR THE CITY OF CHICAGO AND MICHAEL E. LAVELLE, JAMES R. NOLAN AND CORNEAL A. DAVIS, IN THEIR CAPACITIES AS MEMBERS OF THE BOARD OF ELECTION COMMISSIONERS FOR THE CITY OF CHICAGO, DEFENDANTS. EDWARD W. GJERTSEN, STUART SCHULMAN, JOSEPH W. SMITH, KENNETH A. LAVAND, HERMAN A. SCHELL, JR., PATRICIA A. HANS, WILLIAM T. MARGALUS AND DOMINIC COSTANZO, PLAINTIFFS, V. THE BOARD OF ELECTION COMMISSIONERS FOR THE CITY OF CHICAGO AND MICHAEL E. LAVELLE, JAMES R. NOLAN AND CORNEAL A. DAVIS, IN THEIR CAPACITIES AS MEMBERS OF THE BOARD OF ELECTION COMMISSIONERS FOR THE CITY OF CHICAGO, MEMBERS OF THE STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS, RICHARD A. COWEN, CAROLYN R. EYRE, J. PHIL GILBERT, MICHAEL J. HAMBLET, JOSHUA JOHNSON, JOHN J. LANIGAN, THERESA M. PETRONE AND NORMA J. SHAPIRO, IN THEIR CAPACITIES AS MEMBERS OF THE STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS, AND STANLEY T. KUSPER, JR., IN HIS CAPACITY AS COUNTY CLERK OF COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, DEFENDANTS.



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

  MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I.

A primary election will be held in the City of Chicago on March 20, 1984 ("the election"). At such time candidates for the office of Ward Committeeman who receive a plurality of votes will be elected as Ward Committeemen. Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 46, § 7-8(b). Two lawsuits have been filed: one on behalf of certain Democratic candidates (84 C 0148) and the other on behalf of certain Republican candidates (84 C 0560). Plaintiffs Dorothy Tillman and George H. Eddings sought inclusion on the ballot as candidates for the office of Democratic Ward Committeeman in the 3rd and 18th Wards of the City of Chicago, respectively. Plaintiffs Edward W. Gjertsen, Herman A. Schell, Jr., Joseph W. Smith and William T. Margalus sought inclusion as candidates for the office of Republican Ward Committeeman in the 40th, 19th, 45th and 11th Wards of the City of Chicago. The other plaintiffs are voters who desire to vote for the candidate plaintiffs in the election.*fn1 One of the defendants in these cases, the Board of Election Commissioners of the City of Chicago ("the City Board") is responsible for certifying the names of candidates to be included on the ballot for the March 20, 1984 election. The City Board certified to the Cook County Clerk, defendant Kusper, that the plaintiff candidates will not appear on the ballot for the election as candidates for Ward Committeeman because they failed to submit sufficient valid signatures on their nominating petitions to meet the minimum requirements of Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 46, § 7-10(i). Plaintiffs sued the City Board, Kusper and the Illinois State Board of Elections ("the State Board"), challenging the constitutionality of the minimum signature requirement set forth in Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 46, § 7-10(i).

On March 7, 1984, we ruled on plaintiffs' motions for preliminary injunctive relief and required that the City Board include certain plaintiff candidates' names on the ballot for the election.*fn2 Set forth herein are the supporting reasons for our ruling granting plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction in 84 C 0148 and granting in part and denying in part plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction in 84 C 0560.*fn3

Persons seeking inclusion on the ballot as Ward Committeeman candidates must meet several requirements under the Illinois Election Code, Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 46. Controversy in the present matter centers around the minimum signature requirements set forth in § 7-10.*fn4 Section 7-10 provides that

petitions for nominations shall be signed

 
    (i) If for a candidate for precinct committeeman,
  by at least 10 primary electors of his party of his
  precinct; if for a candidate for ward committeeman,
  by not less than 10% nor more than 16% (or 50 more
  than the minimum, whichever is greater) of the
  primary electors of his party of his ward; if for a
  candidate for township committeeman, by not less than
  5% nor more than 8% (or 50 more than the minimum,
  whichever is greater) of the primary electors of his
  party in his township or part of a township as the
  case may be.
  (k) . . . the number of primary electors shall be
  determined by taking the total vote cast for the
  candidate for such political party who received the
  highest number of votes in such political subdivision
  or district at the last regular election at which an
  officer was regularly scheduled to be elected from
  that subdivision.

Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 46, § 7-10.

The City Board published an "Election Calendar" for 1984, which listed minimum signature requirements for a variety of offices.*fn5 According to the Election Calendar, Tillman was required to submit 2,448 signatures on her nominating petition; while she presented 3,483 signatures, the City Board concluded that only 2,105 of those signatures were valid.*fn6 Tillman thus submitted signatures of 8.6% of the primary electors in her ward. Eddings filed 3,094 signatures, 2,631 of which were found valid. Eddings submitted signatures of 9.9% of the primary electors in his ward. He was required, however, to offer 2,647 signatures. The City Board determined that all of the other plaintiff candidates failed to submit sufficient signatures.*fn7 As a result, none of the plaintiff candidates will be included on the ballot in the upcoming election.

II.

As an initial matter, defendants strenuously assert that an evidentiary hearing must be held on plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction.*fn8 In support of their argument, they cite Bowe v. Board of Election Commissions, 614 F.2d 1147 (7th Cir. 1980), where the Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of preliminary injunctive relief by the district court. The district court in Bowe held an evidentiary hearing should be held on the preliminary injunction motion concerning the identical ten percent signature requirement for Ward Committeeman candidates presently at issue.

Plaintiffs' complaint, like the complaint in Bowe, calls the ten percent requirement into question as compared to minimum signature requirements applied to other state offices. For example, State Committeeman candidates need only obtain 100 signatures from a legislative district to appear on the ballot. Candidates to be delegates at national party nominating conventions need only obtain signatures of one-half percent of primary electors in a congressional district. But since differences in duties, responsibilities and the importance of the various offices may justify the disparity in signature requirements, the Seventh Circuit held that the existence and significance of these facts required development at a hearing on the merits, id. at 1153. As the Court observed,

  [i]t may well be that the state has not chosen a
  reasonable signature requirement in serving its
  compelling interests. The magnitude of the 10%
  signature requirement gives cause for reflection on
  this point. However, that determination will have to
  await a more complete consideration on the merits and
  facts of this case.

Id. (footnote omitted).

The instant case is distinguishable from Bowe on a number of grounds. First, we believe that sufficient facts have been developed to warrant the granting of preliminary injunctive relief. In the hearing held on this matter, the parties were ordered to address the "factual question" as to whether there are any differences in duties between the offices of Ward Committeeman and Township Committeeman which would justify disparate signature requirements for nominating petitions.*fn9 From this evidence, we have concluded that no significant differences exist between these offices.*fn10 As our analysis will reveal, we hold that Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 46, § 7-10(i) is unconstitutional on its face. Second, we emphasize the narrow character of the preliminary injunctive relief in this case, in contrast to permanent injunctive relief.*fn11 Our focus at the present stage of this matter requires considering whether plaintiffs have demonstrated a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits. Finally, we cannot help but note the proximity of the election at issue. Holding an evidentiary hearing would require a substantial time period; and the requisite delay might cause plaintiffs to be denied entirely the preliminary relief they seek. A prompt ruling on this matter would also maximize defendants' opportunity to make the alterations mandated by this order prior to the election and to appeal our decision to the Seventh Circuit, should they so choose. We therefore conclude that at this time an additional evidentiary hearing in this matter is neither required by law nor is it in the interests of prompt and fair resolution of the issues in light of the inherent time restraints; nor do we believe that such evidentiary hearing would be helpful to the Court.

The decision whether to grant or deny preliminary injunctive relief lies within the discretion of the district court. American Hospital Association v. Harris, 625 F.2d 1328, 1330 (7th Cir. 1980). Such discretion, however, is measured against four prerequisites: (1) whether plaintiff has a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits; (2) whether plaintiff faces irreparable injury and lacks an adequate remedy at law; (3) whether the threatened harm to plaintiff outweighs the harm the injunction may cause defendants; and (4) whether granting of the injunction will not disserve the public interest. Shaffer v. Globe Protection, Inc., 721 F.2d 1121 at 1123 (7th Cir. 1983); NFE International, Ltd. v. General Resource Corp., 558 F. Supp. 1137, 1139 (N.D.Ill. 1983).

Plaintiffs will suffer irreparable injury if an injunction does not issue. At present, none of the plaintiff candidates' names will appear on the ballot. Plaintiffs' rights to vote, their rights to associate to advance political beliefs and their rights to appear as candidates in an election are presently imperiled. As the Seventh Circuit has observed, even the temporary deprivation of First Amendment rights constitutes irreparable harm in an injunction suit. Citizens for a Better Environment v. City of Park Ridge, 567 F.2d 689, 691 (7th Cir. 1975). Plaintiffs will therefore suffer irreversible injuries which could not be redressed by an action at law absent a grant of preliminary relief. Citizens Party of Illinois v. Illinois State Board of Elections, 54 ...


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