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Orr v. Edgar

July 20, 1998

DAVID ORR, AS COOK COUNTY CLERK AND AS A TAXPAYER, RESIDENT, FUTURE CANDIDATE FOR ELECTED OFFICE, AND REGISTERED VOTER OF COOK COUNTY AND THE ILLINOIS STATE COUNCIL OF SENIOR CITIZENS' ORGANIZATIONS, AND JOSEPH RAMSKI, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
JIM EDGAR, GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, RONALD D. MICHAELSON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS, AND HANNELORE HUISMAN, KENNETH BOYLE, CHARLES DURHAM, DAVID MURRAY, WANDA REDNOUR, AND ELAINE ROUPAS, AS MEMBERS OF THE ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES. CLINT KRISLOV AND CONSTANCE HOWARD, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
THE ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF ELECTIONS, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Quinn

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County

Honorable Francis Barth, judge Presiding.

On January 7, 1997, the Illinois General Assembly passed Public Act 89-700 (Act) (Pub. Act 89-700, eff. January 17, 1997) which abolished "one-punch" straight-party voting in Illinois. Governor Edgar signed the Act into law on January 17, 1997. On September 24, 1997, plaintiffs David Orr (Orr) and the Illinois State Council of Senior Citizens' Organizations (Council) filed a complaint for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief alleging that the Act was unconstitutional and that the Act violated the State Mandates Act (30 ILCS 805/1 et seq. (West 1994)). Plaintiff Joseph Ramski later joined the lawsuit and a five-count second amended complaint was filed. Plaintiffs Clint Krislov (Krislov) and Constance Howard also filed a complaint on September 24, 1997, which challenged the constitutionality of the Act. These cases were consolidated in the court below. Plaintiffs Orr, Ramski and the Council (plaintiff Orr) moved for summary judgment on three of their five counts, and plaintiffs Krislov and Howard (plaintiff Krislov) moved for summary judgment on all counts. Defendants Jim Edgar, Ronald D. Michaelson, Hannelore Huisman, Kenneth Boyle, Charles Durham, David Murray, Wanda Rednour and Elaine Roupas responded with a motion to dismiss each of plaintiffs' counts pursuant to sections 2-615 and 2-619 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-615, 619 (West 1994)). On April 24, 1998, the circuit court of Cook County granted defendants' motion to dismiss as to both complaints.

On appeal, these two cases were consolidated. Plaintiff Orr maintains on appeal that: (1) the Act stripped a voting right from the Illinois voters in violation of the Illinois Constitution; (2) the General Assembly violated the constitutional three-fifths majority vote requirement necessary to pass the Act with an immediate effective date; (3) the Act never became law since it was not enacted during the legislative term of the 89th General Assembly; (4) the state legislature violated the three readings requirement of the Illinois Constitution; and (5) the Act violates the State Mandates Act and plaintiff Orr has standing to challenge this violation. Plaintiff Krislov's issues on appeal mirror issues two through four in plaintiff Orr's brief. In the interest of judicial economy, we will address these common issues together.

For the following reasons, we affirm.

The facts relevant to this appeal are as follows. The 89th General Assembly passed Public Act 89-700 on January 7, 1997, the last day of its legislative term, which ran from January 11, 1995, to January 7, 1997. The Act abolished "one-punch" straight-party voting in Illinois and set forth the various requirements necessary to effectuate its goal. Pub. Act 89-700, §§1-7, eff. January 17, 1997. The Act began its life in 1995 as House Bill 444, which would have amended the University of Illinois Trustees Act (110 ILCS 310/1 et seq. (West 1994)). Eventually the bill ended up in a conference committee where the committee stripped the bill of its original language and inserted the current language abolishing "one-punch" voting. After a brief floor debate on January 7, 1997, the bill was read one time in both houses and passed along partisan lines that same day. The Act, which had an immediate effective date, received 60 out of a possible 118 votes in the House and 32 out of a possible 59 in the Senate. The 89th General Assembly then adjourned the following day on January 8, 1997, and the Act was sent to Governor Edgar the same day. Governor Edgar signed the Act into law on January 17, 1997.

On September 24, 1997, plaintiff Orr filed his complaint seeking declaratory judgment and injunctive relief. The complaint challenged the substantive and procedural validity of the Act and further alleged that it violated the State Mandates Act (30 ILCS 805/1 et seq. (West 1994)). Plaintiff Orr subsequently filed a second amended complaint on February 24, 1998, which added Ramski as a named plaintiff. Count I of the second amended complaint alleged that the Act violated articles I and III of the Illinois Constitution (Constitution), which require: (1) the State to respect due process, equal protection, and voting rights; (2) elections to be free and equal; and (3) the General Assembly to facilitate voting and to pass election laws that are general and uniform. Count II alleged that the passage of the Act violated article IV, section 10, of the Constitution, which requires bills with an immediate effective date passed after May 31 to receive a three-fifths majority vote in the General Assembly. Count III alleged that the Act violated article IV, section 5(a), of the Constitution (requiring the General Assembly to be a continuous body) and that the late timing of the passage of the Act precluded the Governor and legislature from exercising their amendatory, veto, and veto override powers under article IV, section 9, of the Constitution. Count IV alleged that the passage of the Act violated article IV, section 8(d), of the Constitution, which requires that a bill be read three times in each house of the General Assembly in order to pass. Count V alleged that the Act violated the State Mandates Act (30 ILCS 805/1 et seq. (West 1994)). Count I of plaintiff Krislov's complaint mirrors count II of plaintiff Orr's complaint, count II mirrors count IV of plaintiff Orr's complaint, and count III mirrors count III of plaintiff Orr's complaint. Plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment on their common issues.

Defendants responded with a motion to dismiss for a failure to state a claim pursuant to sections 2-615 and 2-619 of the Code (735 ILCS 5/2-615, 619 (West 1994)). Defendants also filed a motion to dismiss the State Mandates Act claim due to plaintiff Orr's lack of standing. Various other motions also were filed that are not the subject of this appeal. On April 24, 1998, the circuit court, in a 41-page opinion, granted defendants' motions to dismiss and denied plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. The circuit court dismissed count I of plaintiff Orr's complaint on the grounds that the Act did not interfere with the citizens' fundamental right to vote. The court reviewed the Act under the rational basis test and found that the Act bore a rational relationship to a legitimate governmental interest. The court also found that the Act was consonant with the legislature's duty to facilitate voting and to pass election laws that are general and uniform. The court further found that the mandate of article III that all elections be free and equal was not offended by the Act. The circuit court dismissed count II of plaintiff Orr's complaint and count I of plaintiff Krislov's complaint, finding that the Illinois Supreme Court already had determined that bills passed in January with an immediate effective date need only pass with a simple majority. The circuit court dismissed count III of plaintiff Orr's complaint and count III of plaintiff Krislov's complaint, finding that the Constitution requires the Governor to be provided with the time to sign or veto legislation regardless of whether the General Assembly's term has expired. The circuit court dismissed count IV of plaintiff Orr's complaint and count II of plaintiff Krislov's complaint on the grounds that the enrolled bill doctrine precluded the court from inquiring into whether the legislature complied with its procedural requirements for passage of bills. The court also noted that the Illinois Supreme Court had reserved the right to revisit the issue of whether the use of the enrolled bill doctrine violates the Constitution. Finally, the circuit court dismissed count V of plaintiff Orr's complaint on the grounds that individual public officials do not have standing to sue under the State Mandates Act. The court also found that even if plaintiff Orr had standing, the Act would not violate the State Mandates Act as it imposes no new duties on the Cook County clerk.

We review the trial court's ruling on a motion to dismiss and the court's decision on a motion for summary judgment de novo. Murneigh v. Gainer, 177 Ill. 2d 287, 298, 685 N.E.2d 1357 (1997); Pryweller v. Cohen, 282 Ill. App. 3d 899, 907, 668 N.E.2d 1144 (1996).

Plaintiff Orr's first contention on appeal is that the Act stripped a voting right from Illinois voters. We disagree.

It is axiomatic that the right to vote is a fundamental right that deserves zealous protection by the courts. Tully v. Edgar, 171 Ill. 2d 297, 306, 664 N.E.2d 43 (1996); Fumarolo v. Chicago Board of Education, 142 Ill. 2d 54, 74, 566 N.E.2d 1283 (1990). As such, legislation that infringes upon the right to vote is subject to strict scrutiny. Tully, 171 Ill. 2d at 304; Fumarolo, 142 Ill. 2d at 74. However, it is as equally well established that the legislature has the right to reasonably regulate the time, place and manner in which the citizens exercise their right to vote. McDunn v. Williams, 156 Ill. 2d 288, 316, 620 N.E.2d 385 (1993); Walgreen Co. v. Liquor Control Comm'n, 111 Ill. 2d 120, 488 N.E.2d 980 (1986). Legislation that affects voting in this regard is subject to the rational basis analysis. Walgreen, 111 Ill. 2d at 127.

Here, we find that the legislation in question does not infringe upon the right to vote. Rather, the legislation affects the manner in which citizens exercise their right to vote. The Act does not prohibit voters from voting a straight-party ballot. Indeed, an individual voter still has the right to cast a ballot entirely for candidates of one political party. The Act only dictates the manner in which the voter may select candidates. Plaintiffs cite Tully, 171 Ill. 2d 297, 664 N.E.2d 43, for the proposition that legislation that affects any stage of the election process triggers the strict scrutiny standard of review. In Tully, the legislature passed a statute that terminated the terms of the trustees of the University of Illinois after they had been elected to their positions but before the end of their terms. Our supreme court found that the legislation in question affected the voters' fundamental right to vote. Tully, 171 Ill. 2d at 306-07. The court found that the legislation "basically eviscerates the election process by providing that, even though the trustees received the majority of votes cast and counted on election day, they are prohibited from holding office for the terms to which they were elected." Tully, 171 Ill. 2d at 306. Here, we find no such intrusion into the citizens' right to vote. The Act only affects the manner in which the citizens cast their votes, not the fundamental right to vote. Accordingly, we apply the rational basis analysis to the Act.

In order to survive the rational basis test, "the method or means employed in the statute to achieve the stated goal or purpose of the legislation [must be] rationally related to that goal." In Re A.A., 181 Ill. 2d 32, 38, 690 N.E.2d 980 (1998). Whether a rational basis exists for legislation presents a question of law, which we review de novo. Jacobson v. Department of Public Aid, 171 Ill. 2d 314, 323, 664 N.E.2d 1024 (1996). We also presume that the legislation in question is constitutional, and the complaining party has the burden to prove otherwise. People ex rel. Chicago Bar Ass'n v. State Board of Elections, 136 Ill. 2d 513, 524, 558 N.E.2d 89 (1990). When a court is faced with a challenge to the validity of a statute, the court's job is to determine whether the act is constitutional, not whether it is wise. Best v. Taylor Machine Works, 179 Ill. 2d 367, 390, 689 N.E.2d 1057 (1997).

Here, the circuit court found that the Act satisfied the rational basis test. The legislative record reflects that the Act was introduced with a stated purpose of achieving a number of goals, including: increased voter awareness, the selection of better qualified candidates by the political parties, and an increased involvement by third-party groups in the political process. The circuit court found that the abolition of "one-punch" straight-party voting was rationally related to these governmental interests. Upon reviewing this determination, we are mindful that, "'"a legislative choice is not subject to courtroom fact-finding and may be based on rational speculation unsupported by evidence or empirical data."'" In re AA, 181 Ill. 2d at 40, quoting Cutinello v. Whitley, 161 Ill. 2d 409, 421-22, 641 N.E.2d 360 (1994), quoting Federal Communications Comm'n v. Beach Communications, Inc., 508 U.S. 307, 315, 124 L. Ed. 2d 211, 222, 113 S. Ct. 2096, 2102 (1993). The Act, which regulates only the manner in which the citizens exercise their right to vote, represents legislation that is rationally related to a legitimate government interest. We therefore affirm the trial court's ruling.

Plaintiff Orr also maintains that the Act violates the due process and equal protection clauses of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, §2) and the Illinois constitutional provisions regarding the right to vote (Ill. Const. 1970, art. III, §1 et seq.). Specifically, plaintiff Orr argues that the constitutional provisions requiring the State to facilitate voting for all qualified persons and to adopt election laws that are general and uniform (Ill. Const. 1970, art. III, §4) are violated when the Act is coupled with section 17-11 of the Election Code (10 ILCS 5/17-11 (West 1994)), which provides that no voter shall spend more than five minutes in a voting booth if other voters are waiting. Plaintiff Orr maintains that the Act will be especially harmful to the voting rights of the elderly and handicapped in Cook County because of the extremely long ballots in Cook County.

The Act does not impede voting by all qualified persons. As pointed out by defendants, a "one-punch" straight-party vote is not available to the voters who participate in the primary elections. In Cook County, primary election ballots routinely contain the names of many more candidates than are on the general election ballot. The unavailability of "one-punch" voting has not prevented the elderly and handicapped from fully exercising their voting rights in primary elections. Plaintiff Orr has presented no basis to believe that their participation in general elections will be negatively impacted by the absence of "one-punch" straight-party voting. Further, as noted by the trial court, the time limitations of section 17-11 are not intended to rush impeded voters, but are meant to ensure that ballot casting itself is not utilized as a stalling tactic by those motivated to prevent others from voting.

As to plaintiff Orr's assertion that the Act violates the constitutional requirement that election laws be general and uniform, the Act's applicability is uniform throughout the state.

Finally, we note that the "one-punch" straight-party vote was first adopted by the legislature in 1891 and abolished in 1997. "One-punch" voting currently is not available to voters in 31 states. We reject plaintiff Orr's contention that such a voting method constitutes a fundamental right that cannot be revisited by the legislature. There is no vested right in the mere continuance of a law - the legislature retains an ongoing right to amend a statute. First of America Trust Co. v. Armstead, 171 Ill. 2d 282, 291, 664 N.E.2d 36 (1996). We affirm the circuit court's rulings on these issues.

Plaintiff Orr's second contention on appeal (plaintiff Krislov's second issue on appeal) is that the General Assembly violated the three-fifths majority vote requirement necessary to pass the Act with an immediate effective date. The 89th General Assembly first convened on January 11, 1995. The legislature then reconvened for its second legislative session on January 10, 1996. Then, as has become common practice during the past decade and a half, the legislature convened for a third January session on January 6 and 7, 1997. It ...


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