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Politics and the ballot

AP graphic

Municipal elections are several months away, but decisions are being made now to decide who will be on – and off – the ballot.

In Fairview Heights, the city’s election board threw Alderwoman Linda Arnold off the ballot for a minor technicality. She failed to write her ward number on her nominating petitions. Four years ago, two other Fairview Heights candidates made the same mistake but the election board then unanimously agreed to leave their names on the ballot. Four years ago Alderwoman Carol Warner, a member of both election boards, said leaving off the ward number wasn’t a fatal mistake. So what’s different this time? The candidates involved.

Meanwhile in Belleville, the election board left Alderman Paul Seibert and newcomer Alex McHugh on the ballot.

The challenge to Seibert’s petition involved a minor technicality. But the questions raised about McHugh’s residency were more serious. Candidates have to live in the city for a year before they can run for office, and the objectors argued that McHugh had not. It’s troubling that the board dismissed a compelling piece of evidence – the obituary published when his mother died last summer. In the obit, McHugh is listed as a resident of Nebraska.

Attorney Thom Peters, representing McHugh, called the obit “hearsay upon hearsay with speculation.” But families provide the information that gets included in obituaries, which makes them an extremely reliable source of information.

As these rulings remind us, municipal election board decisions are primarily about politics and not election law. The law just gets used to justify whatever the people in power want to do.