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Navarro v. Neal

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

October 15, 2012

Anthony P. NAVARRO, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Langdon D. NEAL, et al., Defendants.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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David Ratowitz, David Ratowitz, Esq., Addison, IL, for Plaintiffs.

James Michael Scanlon, James M. Scanlon & Associates, Chicago, IL, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, District Judge.

The plaintiffs in this case are registered voters in Chicago and neighboring municipalities, and some of them want to run in the upcoming general election as Republican party candidates for positions in the Illinois General Assembly. They have sued the members of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, alleging violations of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. They contend that recently-adopted provisions in 10 ILCS 5/7-61 unduly restrict the candidates' access to the ballot. Defendants have moved to dismiss plaintiffs' suit. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants defendants' motion.

Background

The Court accepts the allegations in plaintiffs' complaint as true for purposes of resolving the motions to dismiss. See Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police of Chi. Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir.2009). The Court may also consider exhibits that plaintiffs have attached to their complaint. See, e.g., Thompson v. Ill. Dept. of Prof. Regulation, 300 F.3d 750, 753 (7th Cir.2002).

Under an Illinois statute, political parties that have received certain minimum amounts of support in previous elections choose their nominees for the general election through a primary election. 10 ILCS 5/7-2 & 5. In order for a candidate's name to appear on the ballot in a primary election, the candidate must file a petition for nomination. Id. § 5/7-10. Among other requirements, the petition must be signed by a sufficient number of " qualified primary electors." Id. " A qualified primary elector of a party may not sign petitions for or be a candidate in the primary of more than one party." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted); see Rosenzweig v. Ill. State Bd. of Elections, 409 Ill.App.3d 176, 179-80, 349 Ill.Dec. 617, 946 N.E.2d 1113, 1116 (2011). A candidate seeking a party's nomination to run for election as a state senator must present at least 1,000 valid signatures. Id. § 5/8-8. A candidate seeking a party's nomination to run for election as a state representative must present 500 signatures. Id. All of the signatures must be collected within ninety days of the date the petition is due. Id. § 5/7-10. The winner of a party's primary is listed on the ballot for the general election.

There are two other ways for a party to place a nominee on the general election ballot. The first applies when someone wins the primary and becomes the party's nominee, but the nominee position then becomes vacant. An Illinois statute provides that a vacancy occurs when (among other things) the nominee dies or declines the nomination. Id. § 5/7-61. When such a vacancy occurs, the local officers of the political party, as defined by statute, may select a replacement nominee. Id.; see id. § 5/8-5 (defines political party officials who select replacement nominee). That nominee is not required to collect any signatures on nominating petitions.

Until recently, the same procedure applied when no one ran in the primary

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election to become the nominee, either on the ballot or as a write-in candidate. If that happened, party officials could then choose a nominee who would not be required to collect any signatures. In 2010, however, the General Assembly amended the statutory scheme. Now, when no one runs in the primary, party officials still select the nominee, but the nominee must also present a nominating petition with the same number of signatures as the nominee would have been required to present had she run in the primary. Id. The nominee, however, has only seventy-five days after the date of the primary to obtain these signatures.

Fourteen of the plaintiffs are registered voters living in the City of Chicago and neighboring suburbs (two of the plaintiffs, Connie Abels and Chris Cleveland, are not described in the complaint as living in Illinois or as registered voters). Five of the plaintiffs were appointed by local Republican party officials to run as the Republican nominee for seats in the state senate and state house of representatives after no one ran in the primary for the relevant districts. Plaintiffs allege that each of the five candidates submitted a nominating petition to the Illinois Board of Elections, although the affidavits plaintiffs have attached to their complaint state that the petitions were considered by the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. Compl., Exs. A-E. In each case, the Board determined that the candidate had not submitted sufficient valid signatures from qualified primary electors as required by 10 ILCS 5/7-61. As a result, the candidate plaintiffs are not listed on the general election ballot as the Republican Party nominee for their respective seats in the Illinois General Assembly. The other plaintiffs are ...


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