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Johnson v. Ames

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fifth Division

November 1, 2016

MAXINE JOHNSON, Petitioner-Appellee,
v.
MATTHEW AMES, Respondent-Appellant The Village of Broadview Municipal Officers Electoral Board, and its Members, Judy Brown-Marino, Chairman; Kevin McGrier, Member; Robert M. Hodge, Member; and David Orr, in His Official Capacity as Cook County Clerk, Respondents.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, No. 13 L 014527 The Honorable Paul A. Karkula, Judge, presiding.

          PRESIDING JUSTICE GORDON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice Reyes concurred in the judgment and opinion. Justice Lampkin dissented, with opinion.

          OPINION

          GORDON, PRESIDING JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 After obtaining the signatures of hundreds of voters in the Village of Broadview, petitioner Maxine Johnson filed a "Petition for Referendum-Term Limits on Mayor's Office" with the Clerk of the Village of Broadview. The petition sought to place a term limits question on the ballot for the November 8, 2016, general election. If passed by the voters on November 8, 2016, the referendum question would govern the eligibility of candidates seeking to run in the April 4, 2017, municipal election for village president, as well as in subsequent elections.

         ¶ 2 In response to an objector's petition, the Village of Broadview electoral board issued a decision on October 3, 2016, finding that the term limits question was vague and ambiguous because the question was unclear as to whether the limits applied prospectively or retroactively. On October 19, 2016, the trial court reversed the decision of the electoral board, finding that the question was not vague or ambiguous.

         ¶ 3 For the following reasons, we agree with the trial court and conclude that the question is not vague or ambiguous and, thus, order its placement on the November 8, 2016, ballot.

         ¶ 4 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 5 The question at issue states:

"Shall the terms of office for those persons elected to the office of Village President in the Village of Broadview, at the April 4, 2017 consolidated election, and at each election for said office thereafter, be limited such that no person shall be eligible to seek election to or hold the office of Village President where that person has been previously elected to the office of Village President of the Village of Broadview for two (2) consecutive full four (4) year terms."

         ¶ 6 As we observed above, on August 8, 2016, the proponent of the above question, Maxine Johnson, filed a petition signed by several hundred voters in the Village of Broadview. On August 15, 2016, an objector, Matthew Ames, filed an eight-count petition challenging the validity of this question.

         ¶ 7 On October 3, 2016, the electoral board issued a written decision sustaining only the third objection. Concerning the third objection, the board stated, in relevant part:

"In applying Illinois law, the Board finds that the Referendum is vague and ambiguous and cannot stand on its own terms and is therefore invalid and sustains the [objection]. The Referendum is uncertain with respect to whether a person's service as Village President prior to the passage of the Referendum is to be considered in determining if that person has served more than eight years in that position."

         ¶ 8 With respect to the other objections, the board noted that the second, seventh and eighth objections were withdrawn by the objector and, thus, were not considered by the board. With respect to the first objection, which was a challenge to the number and validity of the signatures, the board heard evidence and concluded that the petition had the requisite number of valid signatures:

"The Board makes the following Findings and Conclusions as to Objection I [which states: ']The Limit Referendum is invalid because it does not have the requisite number of signatures necessary to satisfy 10 ILCS 5/28-7.['[1]
The Proponent and the Objector filed motions pursuant to Rule 8 and 10 of the adopted rules of the Board. The Board heard evidence on the issues of signatures and voter registration and heard evidence as well as a records exam.
The Board finds that the number of valid signatures appearing on the referendum petition following a completion of the records examination was 224 valid signatures which was 3 signatures over the statutory requirement of 221. Under the Election code 221 signatures were required which was calculated based on 8% of the total amount of voters in the local governmental unit which voted in the last governor's election. The Board therefore overrules Objection 1."

         The objector had argued before the electoral board that the board should strike certain affidavits which were notarized by the proponent, Maxine Johnson, and which were submitted to rehabilitate certain signatures; and that, if these affidavits were struck, the petition would then have less than the statutorily required minimum of 221 signatures.

         ¶ 9 With respect to the fourth and fifth objections, which were claims that the question violated the voters' constitutional rights to vote and to associate, the board held that it had "no authority to decide United States Constitutional issues." With respect to the sixth objection, which claimed that the Village of Broadview was not ...


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