Appeal from the Circuit Court Franklin County. No. 93-MR-12. Honorable Kathleen M. Alling Judge Presiding.
Chapman, Goldenhersh, Maag
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chapman
JUSTICE CHAPMAN delivered the opinion of the court:
Community Unit School District 168 of Franklin and Williamson Counties (the School District) announced that $825,000 in working cash bonds were going to be issued unless a petition containing a minimum of 926 signatures requesting that the matter be put on the ballot was filed. Petitions containing over 1,400 signatures were filed. Six individuals filed objections to many of the signatures. The Electoral Board (the Board) convened and ruled there were not enough signatures to put the matter on the ballot. Petitioners appealed the decision of the Board to the trial court, which found there were 889 valid signatures, 37 short of the required 926. We reverse that part of the circuit court's judgment. The petitioners, Mary Lou Sakonyi, Corliss Fletcher, and Ernie Brown, represent the people who want to have the bond issue placed on the ballot. The first issue petitioners raise is whether the Board has standing to cross-appeal. Resolution of this question is not necessary, however, as the petitioners, who have standing without question, fully address the substantive issues at bar. Under the circumstances of this case, determination of whether the Board has standing to prosecute an appeal is not necessary to dispose of the case, nor would resolution of the standing issue affect its outcome. We turn, therefore, to the substantive issues.
Another preliminary matter concerns the timing of the hearing. Petitioners filed their petition for judicial review in the circuit court on March 26, 1993. The Board contends that the circuit court's failure to conclude the hearing on the petition within 30 days of the filing of the petition divested the court of jurisdiction. According to a docket entry, the trial Judge held a telephone conference with the attorneys of record at which time the court scheduled a pretrial hearing on April 21, 1993, and a final hearing for April 26, 1993. At the April 21, 1993, hearing, with the consent of all parties present, including the attorney representing the Board, the court continued the matter to April 28, 1993, for a status hearing. Ultimately, the circuit court heard arguments on May 5, 1993, and rendered a decision on June 15, 1993.
Section 10-10.1 of the Election Code provides that the court shall set the matter for hearing to be heard within 30 days after the filing of the petition and shall make its decision promptly after such hearing." (10 ILCS 5/10-10.1 (West 1992).) Nothing in section 10-10.1 provides that the hearing shall be concluded within 30 days--the statute states: "And [the court] shall make its decision promptly after such hearing." (10 ILCS 5/10-10.1 (West 1992).) A pretrial hearing was conducted within 30 days of the filing of the petition. The plain language of the statute indicates that the legislature intended the judicial review to be an expedited proceeding. However, the statute does not provide that the 30-day requirement is jurisdictional or that the hearing must be concluded within 30 days of the filing of the petition. It is not evident from the record that the Board suffered any prejudice because of the delay, and we find no error.
The next issue for consideration is whether the Board erred in striking three of the Ruth Rose petitions which were submitted on behalf of registered voters who wanted the bond issue placed on the ballot. Each of the Ruth Rose petitions included the following affidavit signed by her:
"The undersigned, being first duly sworn, deposes and certifies that he is a registered voter of Community Unit School District Number 168, Franklin and Williamson Counties, Illinois, that his residence address is , Illinois, that the signatures on the foregoing petition were signed in his presence and are genuine, that to the best of his knowledge and belief the persons so signing were at the time of signing said petition registered voters of said school district and that their respective residences and [sic] correctly stated therein."
Although Ruth Rose signed each of the four affidavits, which were numbered 50, 51, 52, and 53, none of the sheets contain her address in the affidavit of the circulator. Ruth Rose's address was, however, provided in petition number 51, which Rose also signed as a petitioner.
The Board rejected petitions numbered 50, 52, and 53:
"The verification of sheets numbered 50, 52, and 53 were [sic ] not completed, as required by 10 ILCS 10-10, [and] therefore forty-six (46) otherwise valid signatures are invalidated."
Appellants contend that the Board's decision was error. We agree.
Section 10-10 of the Election Code, which the Board referred to in its decision, gives the Board the authority to decide whether the petitions are in proper form and whether the objections thereto should be sustained. (10 ILCS 5/10-10 (West 1992).) In addition to the individual objections filed as to 7 of the 64 signatures in Rose's petitions, a general objection was filed alleging that Rose's address did not appear in the circulator's affidavit of the petitions and did not appear at all on three of the four petitions. Section 28-3 of the Election Code provides in part:
"At the bottom of each sheet of such petition shall be added a statement, signed by a registered voter of the political subdivision * * * in which the question of public policy is to be submitted, stating the street address * * * of the voter, as well as the voter's city, village or town, certifying that the signatures on that sheet of the petition were signed in his presence and are genuine, and that to the best of his knowledge and belief the ...