Illinois Courts Interpret Election Code

By January 13, 2015April 29th, 2015News

In December of 2014, two cases involving interpretations of the Illinois Election Code presented themselves in front of the Illinois Supreme Court and the Illinois Appellate Court.

Both courts deemed that their “primary objective in performing statutory construction was to give effect to the legislature’s intent.” In both cases, the courts adhered to what they believed to be the best indication of legislative intent, using the plain and ordinary meaning of the language to guide their interpretation.

In the case of Alvarez v. Williams, the Illinois Appellate Court, interpreted and read jointly section 29-15 of the Election Code with section 124-1 of the Criminal Code, to mean that Williams’ conviction of a felony forgery on an accountability theory to be an “infamous crime,” thereby rendering him ineligible to hold the office of a school board member.

The appellate court found that the plain and ordinary language of the statutes established that anyone convicted of an “infamous crime,” of which forgery was one, was to be “prohibited from holding any office of honor, trust, or profit.”

Despite the repeal of section 124-1 of the Criminal Code, the appellate court provided that such action did “not change the classifications of an ‘infamous crime’ in section 29-15 of the Election Code” and that the legislative intent of the statute remained intact, excluding Williams from being eligible to hold office.

A similar approach was taken by the Illinois Supreme Court, which issued an opinion interpreting the procedural requirements of section 10-10.1(a) of the Election Code in the case of Bettis v. Marsaglia.

Here, the Petitioner, argued that she had complied with the procedural requirements of section 10-10.1(a) of the Election Code when serving each board member of the Electoral Board but not the entire board as a separate entity.

The Court maintained the same approach as that of the Alvarez v. Williams court, attempting to stick to the plain and ordinary language of the statute in determining the true legislative intent of the Election Code provision.

The question here came down to how a party strictly complies with section 10-10.1(a). The statute clearly required that the Electoral Board be served, but the appellate courts had been split over what that service entailed.

Two constructions of section 10-10.1(a) had been proposed at the appellate level. The first found that service on the board and each member of the board is required whereas the other interpretation provided that service on every member of the board necessarily accomplished service on the board itself. It was the latter interpretation that the Court inevitably accepted, finding that service on the board and additionally every individual member was unnecessary and entirely duplicative.

The Court noted in its decision that because the intent of section 10-10.1(a) of the Election Code was to ensure that all necessary parties receive notice that a petition for judicial review has been filed, this purpose was fully accomplished through service on each individual board member.

Ultimately, both courts charged themselves with the task of construing various provisions of the Election Code in a manner true to its legislative intent.