A Cook County judge ruled Thursday that three candidates who were removed in April from the race for Illinois Supreme Court judge will be reinstated for the June 28 primary election.
The candidates – Republicans Susan F. Hutchinson and Mark Curran and Democrat Nancy Rodkin Rotering – had been removed April 21 by the state electoral board, which agreed with objectors who said the candidates did not have the number of signatures required to be in the race.
Judge Maureen O. Hannon reversed this decision Thursday for the candidates who are running to fill the vacancy left when former Chief Justice Robert Thomas retired. His position representing the 2nd District had been filled by Liam Brennan, who now is running in the 3rd District.
The case follows the redistricting of the state’s judicial districts and, as a result, a change in the number of signatures required in order to appear on the ballot, Hannon said in her ruling.
The 2nd District previously included 13 counties but now comprises five counties: DeKalb, Kendall, Kane, Lake and McHenry.
Under state law, the minimum number of signatures required is equal to 0.4% of the votes cast for either the Republican or Democrat in that district in the last gubernatorial election or 500 signatures, whichever is greater.
But the current 2nd District did not exist during the last election, Hannon said, and, as a result, the candidates and objectors disagree on how the number should be determined.
The candidates pointed to the 500-signature minimum – which would be reduced by one-third to 334 due to a law passed last spring that also pushed back the date of the primary to June. That also was the number the Illinois State Board of Elections said candidates needed in its 2022 candidate guide.
The objectors – Alan Spellberg, Cacilia Masover and Nancy Waites – argued that the proper minimum of signatures would be 757 for Republican candidates and 791 for Democrats, according to the ruling. Those numbers are based off the calculation laid out in the state law when looking at the votes cast across the five counties comprising the new 2nd District.
All three of the candidates had more than the 334 but fewer than the minimums proposed by the objectors.
Curran said Friday that he collected 670 signatures. Hutchinson collected 714, said Keri Lyn Krafthefer, her attorney, and Rotering said she collected 669.
Citing past precedent, Hannon said the courts should give “substantial weight and deference to an interpretation of an ambiguous statute by the agency charged with administering and enforcing that statute.” That agency in this case was the Illinois State Board of Elections, which put forth the 334-signature requirement.
That interpretation of the law “is not unreasonable and therefore has a presumption of correctness,” Hannon said, reversing the electoral board.
In Thursday’s ruling Hannon applied the law, whereas the electoral board did not do that, Krafthefer said Friday.
Krafthefer said the objection to Hutchinson came from opponents who do not want to go up against her experience.
“It’s clear from our perspective that people recognize Judge Hutchinson is the most experienced candidate, and they want her off the ballot so they don’t have to compete against her,” Krafthefer said. “She is the only sitting appellate court judge in the race.”
Being elected to the Illinois Supreme Court is a natural progression for Hutchinson, Krafthefer said, adding that the other candidates “are trying to skip the steps.”
Rotering issued a statement after the ruling saying she is “grateful.”
“We are grateful that the court ruled in our favor today and upheld what we always knew to be true: that our nominating petitions complied with the election code,” Rotering said. “This effort to distract from the real issues that matter to voters was unsuccessful.
“Fighting for fairness is why I am in this race. We are pleased that the voters will have the opportunity to select me as their Democratic nominee for Illinois Supreme Court justice nominee on election day, June 28.”
Curran also expressed his appreciation for being placed back on the ballot, telling the Northwest Herald, “I am happy the voters will have a chance to vote for someone with a record of defending life and liberty.”