Metro-East News

Independent candidate appeals removal from Madison County ballot

Tyler Oberkfell is appealing a judge’s ruling that removed him from the November ballot for a seat on the Madison County Board.

Oberkfell is an independent running in District 2, representing Troy. His opponent was Republican Donald Moore, who defeated incumbent Roger Alons in the primary election.

In order to appear on the ballot, each candidate had to get a sufficient number of signatures on a petition. Moore only needed enough signatures to equal 5 percent of registered Republicans who voted in the last gubernatorial election — 19 signatures. But since Oberkfell is an independent, it had to be 5 percent of all voters in the district: 232.

His petition had 273 signatures, but Moore filed an objection, stating that some of the signatures were invalid. After a series of hearings before the Madison County Electoral Board, 39 signatures were disqualified because the signers were not registered to vote at the given address, or their address was not in District 2, among other reasons. This left Oberkfell on the ballot by two votes, with a total of 234.

However, Moore appealed to the circuit court for judicial review. Madison County Circuit Judge John Barberis ruled that the electoral board had erred in not eliminating four additional signatures that were found to be invalid during the full binder review conducted by the county clerk’s office, but were not included in Moore’s original objection.

That left Oberkfell two signatures short, and he was removed from the ballot.

Oberkfell said the judge’s decision was “disappointing.” He filed his appeal Wednesday with the 5th District Appellate Court in Mount Vernon.

“I don’t agree with it, and there are a lot of folks in Troy that are angry that I have been kicked off the ballot,” he said. “I plan to appeal his decision in order to preserve democracy. I believe the people should choose who will work for them, not a judge. I am hopeful that the system will right itself.”

Moore could not be reached for comment.

Oberkfell said his appeal also will address issues of notice: he said he was never notified of the original hearing date or time. He said he also takes issue with Barberis’ choice not to recuse himself, as both Barberis and Moore are running for election on the Republican ticket. Barberis is currently seeking a seat on the 5th District Appellate Court.

Oberkfell said he also will appeal Barberis’ ruling not to place a stay on his decision, which would have prevented the ballots from being printed without Oberkfell’s name until the appeals court could decide.

County Clerk Debbie Ming-Mendoza said she has to know by Sept. 29 which names will be on the ballot. That is the first day she can send out mail-in ballots and that absentee voting begins. “We have flexibility because we print the ballots in-house,” she said. It only takes a couple of days of test runs to change the names, she said. In the meantime, she’s planning the ballots as they currently stand: without Oberkfell.

“We have to keep moving forward,” she said.

Oberkfell said this is his first experience with running for office, and he feels he is learning a lot. “I have confirmed that there are really great people that live in Troy and my district.” he said. “I was able to obtain 273 signatures of people who want me on the ballot because they want someone that will approach the work on the county board with ethics and principles, not party affiliation.”

However, Oberkfell said he now believes “certain people will say and do anything” to get elected. He said Moore’s objections and the subsequent hearings have cost more than $3,000 in taxpayer dollars in a dispute that came down to four signatures. “My opinion is that spending taxpayer money to take away voter choice is a waste of taxpayer money,” Oberkfell said.

It is not known when the appeals court might set a hearing. If the appeal is unsuccessful, Oberkfell said he still plans to continue his campaign as a write-in candidate.

“I believe that the people should decide who will work for them,” he said.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald