The Madison County Record Jan. 19, 2016, 6:38pm


CHICAGO – St. Clair County judges who prefer election at 50 percent to retention at 60 percent have hired an attorney who has been a ballot guardian of the Illinois Democratic Party to plead for their plan at the state election board.

Their lawyer, Michael Kasper of Chicago, successfully defended President Obama’s spot at the top of Illinois ballots in 2012.

In 2014, Kasper kept the Green Party off the ballot and blocked a constitutional initiative on independent redistricting.

In addition to filing and answering ballot objections, he stays busy appealing penalties for candidates and committees that break the board’s rules.

Last year, when he appealed a $7,500 fine against Secretary of State Jesse White, the board sliced it to $1,500.

Kasper handled five straight cases at a board meeting in September 2013.

He blamed a bookkeeper’s maternity for a ward organization’s late filing, and the board reduced the fine to 10 percent.

Kasper offered to settle a penalty against a political action committee for $1,625, and the board accepted it.

He accepted recommendations of general counsel Steve Sandvoss against a campaign in one case but disagreed with him in another.

Minutes show Sandvoss reversed himself and the board granted the appeal.

In the final case, Kasper blamed chemotherapy treatments for violations and offered $10,000, which the board accepted.

That November, Sandvoss told the board a campaign failed to comply with an order to file a report.

Kasper announced that it was filed the day before, and Sandvoss recommended that no further action be taken.

Kasper blamed violations in the next case on an outside vendor, and five of eight board members granted the appeal.

He blamed violations in the next case on notices going to a law firm instead of a campaign committee in the same building, and the board granted the appeal.

He took on a heavier task in 2014, keeping possible reformers off the ballot.

In the board’s proceedings with "Yes for Independent Maps," he moved to intervene on behalf of the "Committee to Protect the Illinois Constitution."

On May 30, the board extended the map group’s deadline for validation of signatures from June 5 to June 6.

On June 3, the map group filed freedom of information requests with various election authorities.

On June 17, the map group asked the board to admit evidence that it requested before June 6 but received after it.

According to minutes, “Mr. Kasper felt it was unfair to his client that the proponent should get an exception to the rules when they were not working diligently to obtain the records.”

He said they waited three weeks to file information requests.

The board decided to admit evidence from four boxes at the hearing but no other evidence from the information requests.

Kasper meanwhile moved against the Greens, objecting to their candidates on the state ballot and on local ballots at Chicago and Carbondale.

The Greens served a subpoena for the appearance of the statewide objector, Karen Yarbrough, and Sandvoss recommended denial.

Minutes of July 21, 2014, show Kasper said “the appearance of his client should not be granted because it was unnecessary and constituted harassment.”

The board denied the subpoena.

Kasper’s party ultimately prevailed on both cases.

His current clients, chief judge John Baricevic and circuit judges Robert Haida and Robert LeChien, seek to retire and run like new candidates.

Belleville city clerk Dallas Cook filed objections with the board last year, claiming they must stand for retention.

The board set the case for hearing on Jan. 20.

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