Hardiman's Democratic bid for governor gets mixed ruling from state hearing officer

Written By Sun-Times Wire Posted: 01/14/2014, 10:51am

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SPRINGFIELD-The prospects of Democrat Tio Hardiman and running mate Brunell Donald getting their names on the March 18 primary ballot grew murkier late Tuesday — all because of a dispute about where she lived and whether she was a legal voter in the 2012 Democratic primary.

A hearing officer for the State Board of Elections and the agency’s top lawyer clashed on whether Donald should be permitted to be on the ballot because of questions about whether she is a “qualified primary voter,” as state law requires.

The question likely will be decided Thursday when the eight-member state election board will rule on a challenge against the Hardiman-Donald ticket brought by a trio of supporters backing Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, who will appear on the ballot with his running mate, Paul Vallas.

Rupert Borgsmiller, executive director for the State Board of Elections, said he doesn’t know which way the bi-partisan board appointed by Quinn will tilt on the question involving Donald — or, more broadly, her ticket with Hardiman.

“It could follow ‘a.’ It could follow ‘b,’ or there could be a ‘c,’” Borgsmiller said, alluding to the potential routes the board could go.

The dispute over where Donald lived and the address on her voter registration in the last primary promises to veer into untested legal ground because a new state law requires gubernatorial candidates run in primaries with their chosen running mates. There is no contingency in the law to address what happens if one candidate is allowed on the ballot, but the other is disqualified.

“What happens if you have a governor but not a lieutenant governor? Does that void both names from being on the ballot?” Borgsmiller asked. “There’s no case law you can really hang your hat on that clearly answers that question.”

The Legislature passed the law in response to the results of the 2010 Democratic primary that, for a time, had paired Quinn with the leading vote-getter for lieutenant governor, Scott Lee Cohen. Cohen faced embarrassing domestic abuse allegations that Quinn wanted no part of. Under intense political pressure, Cohen stepped aside, enabling Illinois Democrats to pick Sheila Simon as a replacement.

Earlier in the day Tuesday, a hearing officer ruled that Hardiman had met the necessary 5,000-signature threshold of registered voters to qualify to be on the primary ballot, which itself had been a point of contention.

But that officer, Barbara Goodman, said Donald did not meet the requirement of a state law that dictates a lieutenant governor candidate be a “qualified primary voter.”

Donald had been registered at an earlier address at 5200 S. Blackstone — where she had lived between 2010 and July 2012. Her registration when she voted in the November 2012 general election was at the Blackstone address, even though she was really living on East 54th Street at that time. Donald, who lived at another address during the March 2012 primary, didn’t officially change her registration to her current address until November 2013.

That confusing turn of events boils down to Donald not having a “valid” registration during the 2012 primary, Goodman said.

“The evidence … establishes that the candidate, whether knowingly or not, registered from the Blackstone address in 2013, well after she was legally entitled to do so,” Goodman wrote. “Therefore, from 2010 to November 27, 2013, candidate did not have a valid registration and therefore could not have been qualified to vote in the Democratic primary at the last primary election.

“Accordingly, candidate Donald filed a false statement when she swore that she was a qualified primary voter of the Democratic primary. In fact, she was not and could not have been a qualified voter in the Democratic primary at the last primary election.”

But the board’s general counsel, Steve Sandvoss, disagreed, saying nothing in state law dictates that she cast a primary vote using the East 54th Street residence she lists on her statement of candidacy. A provision in the National Voter Registration Act would have enabled her to legally vote in the March 2012 primary for federal offices even if she had the wrong voter registration, Sandvoss said.

“Though Ms. Donald would have been limited as to which candidates/offices she could have voted for, she could have requested and voted a Democratic ballot at that primary, which I believe would establish her as a ‘qualified primary voter,’” Sandvoss said.

Regardless of Donald’s fate, Sandvoss also determined that Hardiman had enough signatures for him to make the March ballot.

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