JOLIET – The proposed November referendum to restructure the Joliet City Council has run into legal problems because of language that would allow candidates to run for new council districts before they are even created.
A Will County judge may decide Thursday whether the referendum can go forward under conditions that the city of Joliet has called "a legal impossibility."
Will County Clerk Nancy Schultz Voots filed a petition this week seeking court review of issues raised by the wording and timing of the referendum.
"I'm seeking direction from the court on what I'm supposed to do," Voots said Friday. "If the referendum is on the ballot worded like this, the voters are going to be confused."
The referendum brought by Concerned Citizens of Joliet states in part that "the change shall be effective for the 2017 municipal election and therefore the City of Joliet be divided by the sitting council members into 8 districts by December 15, 2017."
The 2017 municipal election is April 4, which means the referendum requires that candidates run for new council districts more than eight months before the deadline to put them in place.
To meet state law, the city would have to map out new council districts by this coming Monday, according to Joliet City Attorney Marty Shanahan.
Election law requires that new districts be in place 30 days before candidates can pull their petitions, Shanahan said.
"They can pull petitions Sept. 30," Shanahan said.
The referendum calls for the city to eliminate three at-large council positions and replace them with three district positions. That would change the number of district representatives from five to eight, and require a complete remap of council districts.
The referendum was filed Aug. 8, the last day for filing petitions for referendums for the Nov. 8 election. The proposal cleared the objection period, which ended Monday and was sent to the county clerk the next day.
The city attached an addendum to the filing with the county clerk stating in part, "It is a legal impossibility for the City of Joliet to be divided into eight districts for the April 4, 2017, municipal election."
A hearing in Will County Court has been set for Thursday on the county clerk petition.
Maria Aracelia Rosas-Urbano, chairwoman for the Concerned Citizens of Joliet, said she may be able to comment on the matter later on Friday.