Ann Maher Feb. 7, 2013, 12:13pm

A Madison County judge has ruled that a would-be candidate’s "substantial" compliance with the Illinois Election Code is not "sufficient" for Keith Melton to run for Jarvis Township Supervisor.

Associate Judge Clarence Harrison on Feb. 5 ruled in favor of Alan Dunstan – who holds dual roles as Jarvis Township Supervisor and Madison County Board Chairman - by denying Melton’s petition to have his nomination reinstated.

In the case before Harrison, Melton sought to overturn a January decision by a panel of Jarvis Township officials that knocked him off the ballot in the upcoming April 9 election. Dunstan challenged Melton’s nomination, saying he failed to file a receipt with the clerk of Jarvis Township that proved he filed a statement of economic interest with the clerk of Madison County, which thereby invalidated his nomination.

Dunstan was first elected Supervisor in 1985. He is seeking his 9th consecutive four-year term.

Melton, who is represented by Alton attorney John Simmons, had argued that his nomination papers “substantially” complied with election laws and that his failure to file the receipt with the Jarvis Township clerk was “inadvertent and unintentional.”

Dunstan, represented by Collinsville attorney Richard Cain, argued that a Fifth District Appellate Court opinion decision in Powell v. East St. Louis Electoral Board held that substantial compliance is not sufficient compliance and that a “petitioner must follow the requirements of the act.”

“In the Powell decision, the Court addressed the same issue and stated in its decision that the argument that substantial compliance is sufficient was specifically rejected by the Illinois Supreme Court and that a mandatory provision of the Election Code must be enforced even where parties agree there is no knowledge or evidence of fraud or corruption,” Cain wrote in a Feb. 4 brief.

But, in a brief filed Feb. 4 on behalf of Melton, Simmons wrote that the substantial compliance doctrine was recently “confused” and “wrongly decided” by the Fifth District. He wrote that in the Powell decision the Fifth District misinterprets Illinois Supreme Court precedent.

“…[T]the law outside of the Fifth District is substantial (that) compliance can satisfy Mandatory Provisions of the Election Code,” Simmons wrote in referencing decisions out of the First and Second Appellate courts.

“Illinois has one appellate court divided into five districts, rather than five autonomous appellate courts, and of those five districts, at least two agree with Melton,” he wrote.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Melton declined to comment on the decision or whether any further appeals would be forthcoming until he speaks with his attorney.

Dunstan has not returned a phone call seeking comment.

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