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For our democracy to work, all the candidates have to play by the same set of rules–but this election, that hasn’t been the case. That’s why one of my supporters filed a legal challenge to the petitions of Steve Hargery, Mark Tendam and Gary Gaspard. Let me be clear: I like each of them personally, and I understand that some of the voters of Evanston do, too. But at the end of the day, we all have to follow the law. When we don’t, our election isn’t fair.
Here’s the backstory on these petition challenges:
In 1992, Evanston voters overwhelmingly passed a referendum requiring a municipal primary in mayoral elections. In mayoral elections when more than two candidates file to run, Evanston MUST have a primary. The ONLY way to determine whether two or more candidates have filed is to have a primary filing period. Candidates have to properly file their petitions during that period in order to live up to the will of the people.
Earlier this year, I reviewed the law pertaining to this election and believed that we were incorrectly implementing it. I consulted with many election law attorneys, the State Board of Elections and the Cook County Clerk. All stated that the way Evanston was conducting its elections was inconsistent with how the law stated it was to be conducted.
My attorneys reached out to the Evanston City Clerk’s office to inform it of the problem, but the Clerk stated that he felt that the City was correctly holding elections. They then reached out twice to the office of the City’s top lawyer, called the Corporation Counsel, to tell them of the problem–but no one responded to either phone call and multiple messages.
Given the lack of response from the City of Evanston, I felt that the only proper recourse I had was to file my petitions according to what I believed was the correct and legal filing period.
One responsibility of the mayor is to chair the Local Elections Board. If mayoral candidates do not know how the system works and/or cannot procure the necessary information to make sure the process is effective, that undermines trust in the entire democratic process. Elections should be clearly and competently conducted. When the majority of Evanston residents vote and decide they want a mayoral primary, it is up to the City Clerk, the Corporation Counsel, the Mayor and the electoral board to conduct the election lawfully and to abide by the will of the voters.
Doing anything else violates a legally binding referendum enacted by the voters of Evanston, Illinois.
Simply put, all candidates should have to follow the same set of rules. We can’t bend or break them for some folks and not others. There have been countless instances within the past two years where the City of Evanston hasn’t followed the rules. Elected officials need to follow the law in every instance, especially when our own citizens voted to create that law. Anything else is unacceptable.