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Local News

Judge to decide whether 'typo' should stay in proposed Joliet referendum

JOLIET – A lawyer for the resident group seeking to restructure the Joliet City Council told a judge Wednesday that a referendum to do so should go on the November ballot despite a "typo" that makes it impossible to enact as worded.

Will County Judge John Anderson said he expects to make a ruling on the case by Sept. 7 before the ballots are scheduled to go to the printer.

At a hearing Wednesday, Anderson questioned whether any referendum could go on the ballot, even one so absurd as to ask voters to name him "sultan."

Will County Clerk Nancy Schultz Voots has petitioned the court for a ruling on what to do with the referendum because of wording that would require new council districts to be in force for an election that would occur before the new district map could be drawn.

Attorney Neil Conrad said the referendum, if approved as worded, would apply to the first election that would be possible by law, which would be in 2019.

"The ballot measure should be implemented as written," Conrad said. "If it does pass, there's no concern because municipal code just fills in the gap."

Assistant State's Attorney Phil Mock, representing the county clerk, said Voots will comply with whatever the judge orders. But Mock said the clerk was concerned that voters would expect the new council districts to be in force for the April 2017 election because that's what they would have voted for.

"Physically, it can't happen," Mock said. "The clerk looked at the petition. On the face of it, it's not in conformity with the election code."

Conrad and Mock also argued over whether the county clerk has any authority to bring the issue to court. Conrad said the clerk cannot challenge the content of a referendum but only whether the filing meets the technical requirements of the law.

"What if the referendum is completely absurd? I'm not saying this one is," Anderson asked Conrad.

"If something is completely absurd, the local election official does not have the authority to object," Conrad said.

State law provides that such objections be raised by voters to a local electoral board, Conrad said.

Concerned Citizens for Joliet filed petitions for the referendum Aug. 8, the last day to file. No one objected to the referendum before the objection deadline one week later.

The petitions were filed with the city of Joliet, which sent the referendum to the county clerk with an addendum describing it as "a legal impossibility" because of wording that required it to apply to the next city election in April.

The city noted that district maps must be drawn before candidates can take out petitions to run for office, so they know what district they are in. The first day to take out petitions for the April election is Sept. 30.

The referendum requires that the maps be drawn by December 2017.

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