Write-in candidates, including those in April's consolidated elections, have some unusual hurdles to clear in Illinois that make winning their races difficult, St. Clair County Clerk Thomas Holbrook said.
"Write-in candidates have succeeded in the past but not the majority," Holbrook said in an email interview with the Record.
Possibly the most successful write-in candidate in Illinois came at the beginning of U.S. House Rep. Mike Bost's political career. Bost, who represents Illinois's 12th Congressional District, which includes St. Clair County, began launched his career as a write-in candidate for Jackson County Board.
Among the notable write-in candidates in St. Clair County's upcoming consolidated election is Washington Park's incumbent mayor Ann Rodgers.
In January, one of two Washington Park electoral boards removed Rodgers from the ballot, a move Rogers claimed was illegal. A St. Clair County circuit judge later declined to place Rodgers back on the ballot, all but launching her write-in candidacy.
Rodgers’s candidacy, as well as her slate of trustee candidates, had been challenged by Belleville resident Mary McKinney, who is also a candidate for trustee. McKinney alleged that Rodgers hadn't purchased a wheel tax sticker. Failing to purchase a wheel tax sticker renders a candidate ineligible to run. McKinney also alleged that Rogers's trustee candidates, on the same ticket, had not declared which seats on the board they intended to run for.
In Belleville, incumbent Treasurer Dean Hardt is facing write-in candidate Ryan Moore in April's election. Moore also was removed from the ballot Jan. 12 after Belleville's electoral board ruled that he hadn't gathered enough valid signatures.
Moore's write-in candidacy stems from a disagreement over how many valid signatures he needed for his name to be included on the April ballot. Hardt objected to Moore’s petition, saying his opponent hadn't gathered enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. Moore had gathered 274 valid signatures, but Hardt claimed Moore needed 328 valid signatures or 5 percent of voters in the last citywide treasurer's race in 2013. Moore maintained he was required to gather only 221 signatures based on 5 percent of voters in the last city election in 2015, though it did not include a treasurer's race. The board ultimately agreed with Hardt.
"It’s just unfortunate," Moore was quoted in the Belleville News-Democrat shortly after the board's vote that removed him from the ballot. "They should let the voters decide since it was a two-man race to see who was really going to win."
Moore did not appeal the electoral board's ruling but filed as a write-in candidate Jan. 25, less than a week before the deadline.
"Write-in candidates had until February 2, 2017 to file as a write-in," Holbrook said.
Anyone who wants to vote for Rodgers, Moore or any other write-in candidate must fill in the oval beside the ballot's blank line in their races and then write in their candidate's name. The name, or its absence on the ballot, forms the greatest pitfall for a write-in candidate's race, Holbrook said.
"The name doesn't appear on the ballot," he said.
Write-in votes are counted only for people who file a Declaration of Intent with county election authorities, according to state law.
Holbrook also referred to write-in candidate procedures that say a voter's spelling of a candidate's name on the ballot need not be exact so long as it is spelled well enough for election officials to determine the voter's intent. Those same procedures say that voters may inscribe the write-in candidate's name in writing or script but may not use stickers or a rubber stamp.
Early voting in St. Clair County began Feb. 23 and is scheduled to run through April 3, the day prior to the consolidated election April 4. St. Clair residents have until Tuesday, March 7, to register to vote.
Voters in St. Clair County may cast their ballots 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday on the second floor of the county administration building in Belleville. A list of early voting locations in the county is available on the county clerk's website.