Submitted October 6, 2016
from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 1:16-cv-08977 -
Robert W. Gettleman, Judge.
Wood, Chief Judge, Ripple and Williams, Circuit Judges.
Ripple, Circuit Judge
case, which arises out of our motions practice, is an appeal
from the denial of a preliminary injunction in a dispute
among the parties about the placement of certain referendum
propositions on the November ballot.
propositions principally concern the local mayoral election
in Calumet City and term limits on candidates for that
Grant and Calumet City Concerned Citizens (together, the
"Petition Plaintiffs") sought to place on the
ballot a proposition that, if approved by the voters, would
impose mayoral term limits. The County Clerk refused to place
the proposition on the ballot on the ground that Calumet
City's current administration already had placed three
other propositions on the ballot, and state law permitted no
more than three propositions in any single election.
City's new ballot initiatives appeared to target
specifically Thaddeus Jones, an alderman who had announced he
was running for mayor. Mr. Jones therefore also brought suit
against the city officials. Together, the Petition Plaintiffs
and Mr. Jones (together, the "plaintiffs") sought
injunctive relief in the district court, claiming that the
actions of the city officials violated the First Amendment,
the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and
the Constitution of Illinois. The district court denied a
preliminary injunction, and the plaintiffs appealed. Because
preparations for the election were underway, we granted
expedited review and, after considering the submissions of
the parties, affirmed summarily the order of the district
court. At that time, we also indicated that we would issue an
opinion in due course.
18, 2016, plaintiffs Mr. Grant and Calumet City Concerned
Citizens began to circulate a referendum petition to impose
mayoral term limits. The petition specifically asked:
Shall ... Calumet City be subject to a term limit prohibiting
all people from serving more than three (3) terms of office
as Mayor, where a term of office includes partial terms of
office of two years or more, including all past terms of
office served and any term of office currently being served,
effective immediately upon approval and passage of this
binding referendum? Yes [or] No. 
if this proposition were approved by the voters, it would
have disqualified the incumbent mayor from running for
reelection in April 2017.
time of the initial circulation of the plaintiffs'
petition, the defendant mayor and city council members
apparently had not discussed imposing term limits on the
mayoral office and had no immediate plans to place any
referenda on the ballot. Referendum propositions had not been
used frequently. Nonetheless, on June 23, 2016, the City
Council passed a resolution, placing the following
propositions on the November 2016 general election ballot:
1. Shall the City of Calumet City allow taverns (bars) to
remain open until 2:00 a.m. on Fridays and
2. Shall any Calumet City elected official be able to receive
two (2) pensions by being allowed to participate in the
Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund if they are a member of
the Illinois General Assembly Retirement Fund?
3. Shall the City of Calumet City, Cook County, Illinois,
adopt the following term limits for the Office of Mayor to be
effective for and applicable to all persons who are
candidates for Mayor being elected at the Consolidated
Election to be held on April 4, 2017, and subsequent
elections: Mayor - no person shall be eligible to seek
election to, or hold the office of mayor where that person
has held the elected office of either Mayor or Alderman of
... Calumet City for [four] or more consecutive full four (4)
approved by the voters, the first two propositions would be
advisory; the final one would be binding.
August 25, 2016, the City Council also voted to place three
additional referenda questions on the February 28, 2017
primary ballot. The plaintiffs filed their petition with the
City Clerk on August 8, 2016. The petition was timely and
contained the necessary number of signatures. The County
Clerk determined that this proposition could not appear on
the ballot because the Illinois Election Code contains a
provision, referred to as the "Rule of Three, "
which reads as follows:
Irrespective of the method of initiation, not more than 3
public questions ... may be submitted to referendum with
respect to a political subdivision at the same election.
If more than 3 propositions are timely initiated or certified
for submission at an election with respect to a political
subdivision, the first 3 validly initiated, by the filing of
a petition or by the adoption of a resolution or ordinance of
a political subdivision, as the case may be, shall be printed
on the ballot and submitted at that election.
10 ILCS 5/28-1. Therefore, by operation of the Rule of Three,
no additional items could be placed on the ballot. The County
Clerk did not directly notify the Petition Plaintiffs that
their referenda item was blocked.
heard nothing regarding the status of their proposed ballot
referendum, the plaintiffs contacted the County Clerk on
September 6 to inquire as to the status. They were informed
that the referendum had not been certified because it had
been preempted by the City Council referenda items under the
Rule of Three. The Petition Plaintiffs accordingly brought
Jones, a State Representative and five-term Calumet City
Alderman, is the only person to have declared his intention
to compete against incumbent Mayor Markiewicz-Qualkinbush in
the April election. He also is affected uniquely by two of
the City's ballot referenda. First, one proposition asks
the voters whether "any Calumet City elected
official" should be able to receive two pensions by
"being allowed to participate in the Illinois Municipal
Retirement Fund if they are a member of the Illinois General
Assembly Retirement Fund? The second question asks whether
individuals who have served as "Alderman of the city of
Calumet City for [four] or more consecutive full four (4)
year terms" should "be eligible to seek election
to, or hold the office of, mayor?" As a State
Representative and Alderman, ...