You can pick new Belleville township leader at special meeting

News-DemocratJuly 23, 2013 

— A vacancy on the Belleville Township Board will be decided by a special meeting where registered voters nominate candidates on the spot and then take a vote.

Township code states that if the board does not appoint someone 60 days after the death of a trustee there must be a special township meeting so voters could decide.

This is what you need to know about the upcoming election:

Why is it necessary?

In June, the board appointed Ralph Hult to fill the trustee seat occupied by the late Paul Klingler. Since the appointment, some questioned whether Hult had to be of the same political party as Klingler to be eligible.

Klingler was re-elected April 9 to a four-year term. He died May 20.

Hult resigned Friday, exactly 60 days after Klingler died.

Bryan Smith, executive director of the Township Officials of Illinois, said Tuesday that because it has been 60 days since Klingler's death, political affiliation no longer matters. Voters can now pick candidates regardless of their party.

Hult declined to comment Tuesday and referred questions to his attorney, Ron Duebbert.

Duebbert said he researched state law before ultimately agreeing with the township attorney that Hult's appointment was unlawful.

Duebbert added that Hult meets the criteria to vie for the position during the special meeting and plans to do so.

"No one can ask for a more fair election than to ask people who are authorized voters to vote for a candidate of their choice," Duebbert said.

The board initially appointed Hult, an independent, on June 18 with a 3-2 vote.

Township Attorney Brian Flynn told the board the day after Hult's appointment that, according to township code, the position must be filled by someone of the same political party as Klingler, who was a member of the Belleville Good Government party.

Trustees Joy Schreiber and Joe Swierczek, both independents, voted for Hult.

Township Clerk Dallas Cook, an independent, broke the tie that approved Hult's appointment and later swore in Hult to the position.

The two board members who voted against Hult's appointment were Supervisor Dennis Korte and Trustee Joyce Laux. They belong to the Belleville Good Government party.

Korte declined comment Tuesday and referred questions about the process of the special election to Flynn.

When will the board have the special meeting?

The board has not decided on a date, but likely will discuss the logistics of a special meeting during its next regularly scheduled meeting at 3 p.m. Aug. 6.

State law prevents special township meetings from beginning before 6 p.m.

Cook said township officials are researching the process. For example, Cook said he is still looking into a venue that could accommodate a special meeting and whether the township needs to get voter rolls from the St. Clair County Clerk.

"This is a very rare occasion, I would say, so we want to make sure everything is fair and right," Cook said.

Smith, of Township Officials of Illinois, said it is up to the board to call a special meeting now that it has been 60 days since Klingler died.

Township residents also could request a special meeting by submitting a petition with 15 signatures to the board. If this happens, then the special meeting has to be more than 14 days but before 45 days after the request.

How will the special meeting be conducted?

Qualified voters who show up at the special meeting first elect a moderator to run the special meeting, Smith said.

Next, voters nominate candidates. This means that voters might not know who the candidates are before the special meeting.

Voters make a decision by voice vote, according to state law. This means voters can choose a candidate by submitting a paper ballot, or through a show of hands or voice vote.

The person who gets the most votes is elected.

Will the special meeting cost taxpayers?

Smith said the process is "very low cost" to taxpayers.

Because voters will nominate candidates at the special meeting, "you don't have to get any ballots printed or anything like that," Smith said.

Who qualifies for the position?

Voters may select a qualified person to fill the vacancy until the term expires in 2017.

Though the state's township code does not define "qualified person," Smith, Flynn and Duebbert agree that candidates should be:

* A resident of the township for at least one year.

* Registered to vote in the township 28 days prior to the special meeting.

Who is allowed to vote?

Any township residents registered to vote in the township no less than 28 days before the special meeting.

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/BNDBelleville.

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