JOLIET – The City Electoral Board on Thursday rejected a petition to place the Joliet for Eight Districts referendum on the November ballot.
Board members determined organizers did not collect enough valid signatures to certify the measure.
City Councilman-At-Large Mike Turk, who motioned to uphold objector Sarah Andreano’s request to keep the measure off the ballot, said that by any count it appeared the petitioners had not collected enough signatures.
“I think that it’s been established through this hearing that we have to follow the election law and not the municipal code,” Turk said, noting that the 1,465 signatures deemed valid by City Attorney Jeff Plyman fell short of both thresholds.
Attorneys for both sides sent briefs to Turk and the board’s other two members, Mayor Tom Giarrante and City Clerk Christa Desiderio, well into the night Wednesday.
Much of the argument centered on the fact that the number of signatures required by state law could only be estimated based on numbers provided by the Will and Kendall county clerks, while the municipal code figure was a precise number.
On Thursday, Plyman introduced a third mathematical formula to produce a number he said was fair to both sides.
By subtracting the number of registered voters from outside of Joliet from the total number of votes cast, Plyman said he determined a minimum of 27,220 Joliet residents voted in the 2010 election. Based on state election law, petitioners would need 2,178 signatures for certification, Plyman said.
Desiderio noted that even under Plyman’s reckoning, the petitioners fell short of the required number of signatures.
Bryan Kopman, a Joliet attorney representing Andreano, said the board showed courage in its decision.
“I think this was not an easy decision for the board because they faced a lot of political pressure,” Kopman said. “I give them credit for making the correct decision to follow the law.”
Members of Concerned Citizens of Joliet, the grassroots group that has pushed for the referendum since early this spring, said they were unsure whether they would appeal the board’s decision to the courts.
Thursday was the Will County Clerk’s deadline to receive the measure so it could be placed on the November ballot.
The Rev. Craig Purchase, Mount Zion Full Baptist Church pastor and one of the group’s organizers, criticized the board for not establishing the threshold number needed until the final day.
Purchase claimed neither the county nor city clerks’ offices could provide the number when approached by Concerned Citizens last November. He likened the process to playing a basketball game of 21, and suddenly finding out you needed 23 points to win.
“If you don’t know the number, how do you know which number to go for?” Purchase said.
Organizer Maria Aracelia Rosas said the group likely will try to get the issue placed on the April 2015 ballot. The petition deadline for that election is Jan. 7, she said.