Ballot access argued at high court over St. Clair County candidate's failure to get on

Steve Korris Sep. 22, 2011, 6:12am


SPRINGFIELD – Whitney Wisnasky-Bettorf can't regain her spot on last year's ballot in St. Clair County, but she asks the Illinois Supreme Court to make sure no one else loses a spot the same way.

At oral argument on Sept. 20, her lawyer, Brian Funk of O'Fallon, asked the Justices to find that the county electoral board shouldn't have removed her from the ballot.

He called on the Justices to resolve ambiguity in election law in favor of ballot access.

He said a resolution the board claimed his client failed to file was meaningless and superfluous.

Justice Robert Thomas asked what the Court could do if it agreed with him.

Funk said there was no relief for Wisnasky-Bettorf, but told the Justices the Fifth District decision would cause a plethora of problems.

The central committee of the county Republican Party nominated Wisnasky-Bettorf for the Board of Review, after a primary election with no Republican candidate.

She and the party tried to abide by provisions of election law that legislators adopted effective Jan. 1, 2010, but county resident Peggy Pierce objected to her nomination.

The electoral board sustained the objection and removed Wisanasky-Bettorf from the ballot.

Associate Judge Andrew Gleeson affirmed the decision, and so did the Fifth District.

Wisnasky-Bettorf petitioned for Supreme Court review, and the electoral board argued that her case turned moot after the election.

The Justices granted leave to appeal, finding she raised issues of public interest.

State Sen. James Clayborne of Belleville introduced a bill to render the case moot anyway, and it cleared the Senate before stalling in the House of Representatives.

At oral argument, Funk said that in 1985, legislators enacted specific provisions for consolidated primary elections and general primaries.

He said legislators amended the law effective last year because they wanted a party's nominee for a vacancy to stand on the same footing as the winner of a primary.

He said a resolution that the 1985 law required is no longer necessary.

He said the Fifth District committed error when it found all requirements apply to all vacancies.

He said their decision rendered portions of election law inoperative.

For objector Pierce, Kevin Hoerner of Belleville said a party must file a resolution.

Justice Robert Thomas agreed that the act provides that a party must file a resolution to replace the original candidate.

He said, "Who was the original candidate in this case?"

Hoerner said there was none.

Thomas said, "Why are we even talking about nominating petitions?"

Hoerner said the law refers to any vacancy regardless of cause.

Justice Lloyd Karmeier said, "Are there two filing requirements then?"

Hoerner said yes. He said the law requires a resolution in three days and notice of appointment after 75 days.

In rebuttal, Funk said requiring a resolution was an impediment to ballot access.

He said he agreed that the Justices should read the law as a whole but they shouldn't throw specific limits out the window.

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