On Feb. 13, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Maureen Kirby affirmed the decision of the Evanston Electoral Board to bar a referendum question proposed by the Evanston Voter Initiative from appearing on the March 17 primary election ballot.

Daniel Bolin of the Chicago law firm Ancel Glink represented the City of Evanston at both the Electoral Board and Circuit Court hearings.

Judge Kirby denied the relief asked for in the Petition for Review filed by Allison Harned, a member of the Evanston Voter Initiative, and dismissed the action in mandamus.

The Evanston Voter Initiative had gathered signatures of nearly 4,000 registered Evanston voters to place a referendum question on the March 17 ballot. Evanston registered voters Jane Grover, Elizabeth Hayford and Kent Swanson filed two objections to the referendum question’s being on the ballot. One objection was that the referendum question was binding – meaning that it would entail government action if approved. The objectors argued that under the Illinois Constitution and the Illinois Election Code, only a governmental body can place a binding referendum on a ballot. Their second objection was that voters would find the 383-word referendum question confusing.

In response, the Evanston Voter Initiative, with former Governor Patrick Quinn as their lawyer, filed a petition to dismiss the objections. The EVI’s position was that the objectors had failed to state their interest in the matter and that Illinois law permitted citizens to place a binding referendum on a ballot.

On Jan. 15, a majority of the Evanston Electoral Board, composed of City Clerk Devon Reid, Mayor Stephen Hagerty and Alderman Ann Rainey, agreed with the objectors and said the referendum question should not appear on the March 17 ballot. The vote to sustain each of the two objections was 2-1, with Mr. Reid dissenting each time.

Mr. Quinn then filed a Petition for Judicial Review, asking for a court to review and reverse the Electoral Board’s decisions, and a Writ of Mandamus, asking that the Evanston Electoral Board certify the question for the March 17 election.

It is not known at this time whether the Evanston Voter Initiative will file an appeal.

The referendum, if approved, would have provided a mechanism for resident-led initiatives to be enacted into City ordinances.


Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...