St. Clair County Circuit Judge Stephen McGlynn re-set a hearing today that would have delved into arguments over ridding inactive voters from the East St. Louis Board of Elections voter rolls.
The rescheduled hearing will take place at 10 a.m. on July 27 in Courtroom 407.
East St. Louis Alliance for Change president Matt Hawkins has been calling for election reform in the city for years. He claims East St. Louis harbors inactive voters in violation of election law.
"This is an important matter," McGlynn said. "I want to give you, Mr. Hawkins, an opportunity to address the issue."
Hawkins filed a Freedom of Information Act request Feb. 9 with the City of East St. Louis, seeking a list of inactive voters. The board denied his request. He then filed a lawsuit Feb. 22 in St. Clair County Court, asking the court to compel the East St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners to release the list.
The East St. Louis board of Election Commissioners filed a motion to dismiss June 11, stating the Freedom of Information Act does not require the release of "this information."
The Commission also wrote that East St. Louis Alliance for Change is not an established political party, and as a result, the East St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners turned down its request for information.
Belleville attorney Richard Sturgeon represents the East St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners.
"He's made numerous complaints about my client," Sturgeon said. "I would like to limit him to the arguments in the case instead of just accusations."
McGlynn then reminded Hawkins and Sturgeon that they were "big boys."
"As long as we're having equal footing...and equal chance," McGlynn said.
Sturgeon's motion also argued that Hawkins' lawsuit does did not follow the appropriate appeal procedure to obtain the information.
"We believe Hawkins' allegations are not supported by the facts or law," Sturgeon said over the telephone after the hearing. "The judge previously dismissed all of his other complaints. The only thing remaining is issue of obtaining certain records. Everything else has been dismissed."
Hawkins countered that Sturgeon is trying to "confuse things and confuse people.
"Sturgeon is trying to make it so the plaintiff needs a lawyer."
In Hawkins' Feb. 22 complaint, he claims East St. Louis has failed to remove inactive voters from its list, failed to remove deceased persons and has an extremely high absentee voter rate.
"A comparison of the January 2012 voter list to the death records from the St. Clair County Coroner's office from 2004 to 2012 indicate that 26 deceased persons remained registered to vote," Hawkins' complaint states.
"With 19,520 registered voters as of January 13, 2012, and only 19,000 persons over the age of 18, according to the United States Census Bureau's 2010 report, it seems that we have now a major case of over-registration, which is fertile ground for vote fraud," according to the complaint filed by Hawkins.
The lawsuit further states: "By objecting to the signatures contained in a recent petition to place a referendum on the ballot to accept or reject the City Election Law of 1885, it is clear that the Board has a vested self interest in this ballot measure failing so that they might retain their jobs."
Hawkins hopes McGlynn will order notices sent to voters on the list. If they fail to respond, they will be removed from the active voter registration list before November.
Hawkins also hopes McGlynn will mandate a timeline to complete tasks, including the payment of penalties.
Hawkins also hopes McGlynn will determine if penalties are warranted and if so, how much of a penalty and the timeline for payment.
He said he expects more than 6,000 "dead" voters to be removed from the rolls before the November election.
James Lewis, executive director of the East St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners, retired on July 13. Kandrice Mosby, the assistant executive director of the board, said Wednesday no replacement has been made. St. Clair County Chief Judge John Baricevic gives the board permission to start the process of appointing a replacement.
The case is St. Clair County Case number 12-MR-65.
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