A Cook County judge on Thursday put a Democrat and two Republicans vying for a seat on the Illinois Supreme Court back on the ballot after the Illinois State Board of Elections kicked them off last month for not having enough signatures.
The ruling by Cook County Judge Maureen Hannon is the latest twist in an unusual saga to fill a vacant seat last taken by Judge Robert Thomas, a former Chicago Bears place kicker who retired in 2020.
Highland Park mayor Nancy Rotering, a Democrat, and former Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran and Illinois appellate judge Susan Hutchinson, both Republicans, were removed from the vote last month when the electoral council agreed with opponents who argued that the three candidates had not collected enough signatures from registered voters in the 2nd Judicial District, which spans a swath of Northern Illinois including DeKalb, Kendall, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties.
The electoral council’s decision dismissed a hearing official who agreed with the candidates that they had, in fact, gathered enough signatures and ruled that their names would appear on the June 28 primary ballot.
In her six-page ruling, Hannon wrote that disagreements over the number of signatures needed resulted from differing interpretations of the law, noting that candidacy is “a substantial right that should not be denied lightly.”
“Laws governing access to ballots in Illinois must be interpreted liberally and barriers to candidacy must be interpreted strictly,” Hannon wrote.
The ruling speeds up competition for the seat, which now has seven candidates: four Republicans and three Democrats. Rotation is one of the better known candidates for the seat. She was running across the state four years ago when she made a failed bid for the Illinois Attorney General.
“This attempt to divert attention from the real issues that concern voters was unsuccessful,” Rotering said in a statement. “Fighting for fairness is why I’m in this race.”
It was about the interpretation of the law that determines whether judicial candidates have enough signatures for petitions to stand as a candidate for the court. A specific mathematical formula is used based on the results of the previous governor’s race to determine how many signatures are needed. But the law also states that a candidate must receive a minimum of 500 signatures.
Attorneys for Rotering, Curran and Hutchinson argued continuously that it would be inappropriate to determine the candidates’ eligibility for the vote based on the results of the 2018 general election, since the new boundaries of the 2nd Judicial District last year were redrawn by the Illinois General Assembly. So instead, the lawyers applied the mathematical formula to the 500 signature requirement and determined that the candidates needed only a minimum of 334 signatures.
“In this particular election cycle, the circulation period was reduced from 90 days to 60 days, and as a result of that change, all signature requirements were reduced by a third across the board,” said Ed Mullen, an attorney with the candidates’ legal department. team, argued for Hannon during a hearing on Zoom on Thursday. “So if we’re talking about 500 in this statute, that’s the equivalent of 334 signatures just for this election cycle.”
Hutchinson eventually got 702 valid signatures, while Curran got 670 and Rotering 669. But the opponents who contested their candidacy argued that the candidates’ lawyers misinterpreted the case law to support their argument, instead claiming that Rotering had at least 757. needed to run as a Democrat. and the other two needed 791 each to run as Republicans.
That claim of the objectors is based on the election results of the 2018 general election for five provinces that form the new boundaries of the 2nd Judicial District. John Fogarty, a lawyer for the objectors, argued in court on Thursday that the law allows signature tables to be based on each county’s election results, regardless of whether a judicial district was later redrawn.
“Any time a Supreme Court judge or an appellate court is subpoenaed, yes, the state council goes to the counties and calculates those numbers,” Fogarty said. “Even I could… it’s unbearably simple.”
However, Hannon still ruled for the candidates, citing case law supporting her view that basing a table on a minimum of 500 signatures “is not unreasonable and therefore has a presumption of correctness”.
Also vying to succeed Thomas are Republicans John Noverini and Daniel Shanes, as well as Democrats Rene Cruz and Elizabeth Rochford.