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When close is good enough

Illinois election law is more a guideline than a requirement, according to a St. Clair County judge in a ruling involving East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks. And that minimum number of signatures required on a candidate’s petition? Just a suggestion.

Parks had 123 valid signatures on his petitions to get his name on the ballot, 13 shy of the 136 signatures required. But rather than disqualify him, Associate Judge Heinz Rudolf ruled that was close enough. It will be interesting to see if the appellate court agrees. Emeka Jackson-Hicks, Parks’ election opponent, said she will appeal the ruling.

Whatever the law does or doesn’t require, it is odd that an incumbent wouldn’t get more than enough valid signatures. Was Parks too busy to collect the needed signatures? Too complacent to worry about such details? It was disappointing that one of his attorney’s prime arguments was that other candidates have done a worse job of collecting signatures than Parks.

Richard Sturgeon, the attorney for the East St. Louis Election Board, argued at the court hearing that the voters, not a legal technicality, should decide whether Parks gets another term.

It always is better when voters decide. But everyone knows that if a candidate who wasn’t a member of the party in control had come up short on his or her petitions, even one signature shy would have been excuse enough to throw that person off the ballot.

As always in politics, the rules are made by the winners.