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Leck v. Michaelson

OPINION FILED MARCH 19, 1986.

PATRICIA LECK ET AL., APPELLANTS AND APPELLEES,

v.

RONALD MICHAELSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS, ET AL. (RONALD MICHAELSON, APPELLEE AND APPELLANT).



Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. Joseph Schneider, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE SIMON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The plaintiffs in this case are six registered voters of the village of Lansing, one of whom was also a candidate for the office of village trustee in April 1983. The named defendants were Ronald Michaelson, executive director of the State Board of Elections, Stanley Kusper, the chairman of the Cook County board of elections, and Louis La Mourie, the mayor of Lansing. The plaintiffs brought suit in the circuit court of Cook County to force these defendants to conduct a runoff election for two village trustee positions pursuant to a referendum and a subsequently enacted village ordinance requiring that a runoff be held for any village office for which no candidate receives 50% of the votes cast. The plaintiffs also asked for their attorney fees. Defendant Michaelson challenged the constitutionality of the Lansing election system and of the referendum and ordinance by which the system was adopted.

The circuit court upheld the Lansing 50% rule and the runoff election system, even though the runoff schedule conflicted with State election law (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 46, pars. 1A-1, 2A-1.2). The court also held that under the 50% rule, two village trustees had failed to garner the necessary vote, and ordered a runoff for both positions. On appeal, the appellate court upheld the 50% rule but invalidated those provisions of the ordinance that conflict with the schedules and procedures of the State election law. (129 Ill. App.3d 593.) The appellate court held that under the 50% rule, one village trustee had failed to receive the requisite vote, and directed that a runoff be held for that office. The appellate court also affirmed the circuit court's denial of the plaintiffs' request for attorney fees. Under our Rule 315 (94 Ill.2d R. 315), we allowed the petition for leave to appeal of defendant Michaelson in cause No. 61540 and consolidated that cause with the plaintiffs' cross-petition for leave to appeal from the denial of attorney fees in cause No. 61512.

In April 1979, the village of Lansing held a referendum on the following proposition:

"Shall a run-off election be held for any candidates for public office in the Village of Lansing who do not receive fifty percent (50%) of the votes cast for that office."

The proposition carried, and in July 1979, the village board passed an ordinance that it regarded as an implementation of the proposition. The ordinance, which took effect in September 1979, provides with respect to the office of village trustee:

"Section 4: In the event that all, or some of the candidates for the office of Village Trustee do not receive fifty (50) percent of the votes cast at the election for that office, then a run-off election will be conducted * * * as follows:

(a) If none of the candidates for Village Trustee receive fifty (50) percent of the votes cast at the election for that office, then a run-off election will be conducted among the candidates who receive the largest number of votes cast at the regular municipal election, not to exceed two (2) candidates for each office to be filled. The candidates receiving the highest number of votes in that election for the number of offices available shall be elected to the office of Trustee.

(b) if one or more of the candidates for Village Trustee receives fifty (50) percent of the votes cast at the election for that office, any such candidate shall be elected to the office of Trustee. If there are any candidates not elected, and if any offices for Trustee remain unfilled, then a run-off election will be conducted among the remaining candidates who receive the largest number of votes cast at the regular municipal election, not to exceed two (2) candidates for each office to be filled. The candidates receiving the highest number of votes in that election for the number of offices available shall be elected to the office of Trustee."

The 1970 Illinois Constitution empowers home rule units to adopt or alter a form of government by referendum. Article VII provides in pertinent part:

"Sec. 6. Powers of Home Rule Units

(f) * * * A home rule municipality shall have the power to provide for its officers, their manner of selection and terms of office only as approved by referendum or as otherwise authorized by law." (Emphasis added.) Ill. Const. 1970, art. VII, sec. 6(f).

The referendum powers vested in the voters are limitations on the home rule powers that are given to local governing bodies under article VII, section 6(a), which expressly excludes from the powers of local ...


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