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06/21/96 EILEEN O'CONNOR v. COOK COUNTY OFFICERS

June 21, 1996

EILEEN O'CONNOR, PETITIONER-OBJECTOR-APPELLANT,
v.
COOK COUNTY OFFICERS ELECTORAL BOARD, AND ITS MEMBERS, DAVID ORR (BY HIS DESIGNEE, DANIEL MADDEN), JACK M. O'MALLEY (BY HIS DESIGNEE, DONALD MIZERK), AND AURELIA PUCINSKI (BY HER DESIGNEE, RALPH SCHROEDER); JAMES PATRICK SHEEHAN, CANDIDATE: DAVID D. ORR, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS COUNTY CLERK OF COOK COUNTY; THE BOARD OF ELECTION COMMISSIONERS OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, ILLINOIS AND ITS MEMBER COMMISSIONERS, MICHAEL HAMBLETT, ARNETTE HUBBARD, AND RICHARD A. COWEN, IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITIES, RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 96 CO 44. The Honorable Curtis Heaston, Judge Presiding.

The Honorable Justice Hourihane delivered the opinion of the court: McNULTY, P.j., and Cousins, J., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hourihane

The Honorable Justice HOURIHANE delivered the opinion of the court:

In this appeal, we are asked to interpret various provisions of the Election Code as they pertain to the nominating petitions filed on behalf of a candidate seeking nomination in the primary election held on March 19, 1996. The specific challenge to the petitions concerns the propriety of the circulators' verification that they were registered voters during the time the petitions were circulated. The circuit court ruled that the candidate's petitions complied with the Election Code. We affirm.

Background

Petitioner-objector, Eileen O'Connor, challenged the nominating petitions filed by respondent, James Patrick Sheehan, for the office of commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. O'Connor claimed that the petitions failed to comply with the statutory requirements of section 7-10 of the Election Code. 10 ILCS 5/7-10 (West 1994). The Cook County Officers Electoral Board denied O'Connor's claim, and O'Connor sought administrative review in the circuit court.

O'Connor argued in the circuit court that Sheehan's name must be stricken from the ballot because Sheehan's nominating petitions did not contain a "circulator's oath" required by section 7-10 of the Election Code. According to O'Connor, the Code mandated that the circulators affirm that they were registered voters of the political division at all times during the circulation of the petitions. Sheehan, on the other hand, pointed out that a verbatim transcription is not required under section 7-10 and that he has complied with all statutory requirements. Sheehan's petitions contained the following affidavit, sworn by each circulator:

(SEE EXHIBIT IN ORIGINAL)

The circuit court affirmed the Board's decision, ruling that Sheehan's petitions fulfilled the statutory requirements.

O'Connor then sought an accelerated review of the circuit court's judgment in this court. Due to the expedited nature of this appeal, we entered an order, without opinion, on March 15, 1996, affirming the circuit court's decision. We now set forth our reasons in detail.

Analysis

Generally, a reviewing court must view an administrative agency's findings and conclusions on questions of fact as prima facie true and correct. 730 ILCS 5/3-110 (West 1994); City of Freeport v. Illinois State Labor Relations Board 135 Ill. 2d 499, 507, 554 N.E.2d 155, 143 Ill. Dec. 220 (1990). A court may reverse the agency's factual findings only if it is clearly evident that the agency should have reached the opposite conclusion. Freeport, 135 Ill. 2d at 507. If the question involved is one of law, such as the interpretation of a statute, the agency's finding receives deference, but the court is not bound by it. Freeport, 135 Ill. 2d at 507.

At issue here is the interpretation of section 7-10 of the Election Code. This provision provides in pertinent part that

"the name of no candidate for nomination *** shall be printed upon the primary ballot, unless a petition for nomination has been filed in his behalf as provided in this ...


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