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In Cortez v. The Municipal Officers Electoral Board, the First District Appellate Court reversed the decision of the Municipal Officers Electoral Board for Calumet City (“the Board”) ordering the removal of eight candidates from the ballot while upholding the removal of one candidate’s name.

The first issue was the notarization requirement for a candidate’s Statement of Candidacy. Illinois statutes reference a long form notarization on the Statement of Candidacy, but a shorter form of notarization on the initial petition. In Cortez, nine candidates incorrectly used the short form notarization and as a result the words “who is to me personally known” were left off the candidate’s Statement of Candidacy. As a result of this discrepancy, the Board struck the candidates’ names from the ballot.

In reversing the Board’s decision, the Appellate Court found the Board’s remedy to be drastic in light of the candidates’ substantial right of access to be placed on the ballot.  Additionally, the Appellate Court noted that the statute does not require the striking of the candidacy as a sanction, and in fact, the statute does not even require strict compliance, but rather requires that the Statement of Candidacy be only “substantially” in form with 10 ILCS 5/7-10. As a result, the Appellate Court reversed the Board’s decision to strike the nine candidates based on the discrepancy in the notarization.

However, the Appellate Court ultimately upheld the striking of one individual’s candidacy because he failed to file the proper Statement of Economic Interests and to file a receipt reflecting the timely receipt of that Statement. The candidate, Larry Caballero, filled out the economic interest form for statewide office in lieu of the form required for local office which deals specifically with potential conflicts pertaining to Calumet City. The purpose of these forms is to reveal any potential conflicts of interest to the public in advance of an election.  Unlike the notarization issue above, the Illinois statute on this issue is clear that if a candidate fails to file the Statement of Economic interests, the nominating papers are invalid. In upholding the invalidation of Caballero’s candidacy, the Appellate Court found that filling out the improper form circumvents the purpose of the requirement of the form, because it deprives the public of information regarding potential conflicts of interest prior to the election.

The Cortez case demonstrates the need to carefully review the legislative framework surrounding the necessary documents to run for public office.

Timothy J. Clifton

Author: Timothy J. Clifton