High court: Petition circulators confined to gathering signatures for
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[April 22, 2021]
By SARAH MANSUR
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD — An Illinois Supreme Court
decision Wednesday clarified that the state election code prohibits a
person from collecting signatures for both a party candidate in a
consolidated primary and an independent candidate in the consolidated
general election that follows.
The court interpreted the section of the election code that is referred
to as the prohibition on “dual circulators.”
This section states that “no person shall circulate or certify petitions
for candidates of more than one political party, or for an independent
candidate or candidates in addition to one political party, to be voted
upon at the next primary or general election, or for such candidates and
parties with respect to the same political subdivision at the next
The question about “dual circulators” was brought before the state’s
highest court by Adonis Elam Sr., an independent candidate for village
board trustee in the village of Riverdale in south suburban Cook County.
Elam appealed to the Supreme Court after the village of Riverdale’s
electoral board and the Cook County Circuit Court found that Elam’s name
should be removed from the ballot because multiple signatures on his
nominating petition were invalid.
The signatures and petitions were invalidated based on the finding that
Elam violated the election code because three people who circulated his
petitions for the consolidated general election had previously
circulated petitions for a Democratic candidate in the consolidated
Both Elam and the Democratic candidate were to appear on the ballot for
the municipal consolidated general election.
This section that prohibits “dual circulators” applied to Elam, the
electoral board and circuit court decided, rendering his petitions
invalid because he lacked the minimum number of signatures after the
signatures collected by the three people were removed.
On April 1, the Supreme Court agreed with the electoral board and
circuit court, keeping Elam’s name off the ballot for the April 6
The Illinois Supreme Court’s opinion issued Wednesday explained the
reasoning for its April 1 decision.
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Illinois Supreme Court building in Springfield.
(Capitol News Illinois file photo)
The court’s unanimous opinion addresses a split in
two separate appellate courts that reached different interpretations
on the issue of “dual circulators.”
In a 2013 court case, the Fourth District Appellate
Court ruled that the section of the election code that addresses
“dual circulators” does not prohibit a person from circulating a
petition for a political party in a consolidated primary election
and then circulating a petition for an independent candidate in a
consolidated general election.
In another 2013 case, the First District Appellate Court interpreted
this section of the election code to prohibit a situation where a
person circulated petitions for a party candidate in the
consolidated primary and an independent in the consolidated general.
The Supreme Court justices ruled that applying the Fourth District’s
interpretation would essentially nullify the section’s prohibition
on circulating petitions for both an established party candidate and
an independent candidate because independents cannot run in the
The justices also found that the Fourth District’s decision “would
create an unfair advantage for established political parties and
candidates running with established political parties whereby a
political party, via its circulator, either tries to nominate an
independent candidate whom it believes will siphon votes from a
candidate of an opposing political party or tries to raid the other
party’s primary by nominating a partisan opponent who will be easier
to defeat in the general election.”
They agreed with the First District’s interpretation, and overruled
the decision from the Fourth District.
The intent of the General Assembly’s prohibition on “dual
circulators” is clear in situations where a circulator collects
signatures for both a party candidate in the primary and independent
candidate in the general, where both candidates will face off in the
general election, the justices wrote in the 11-page opinion.
The “dual circulators” prohibition of the election code “clearly
prohibits situations such as this, as it would undoubtably cause
voter confusion,” the opinion states.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan
news service covering state government and distributed to more than
400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois
Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.