URBANA - Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden's refusal to provide registered voters' telephone numbers to the State Board of Elections is now a court issue.
The State Board of Elections, through the Illinois attorney general's office, filed suit Tuesday in Champaign County Circuit Court against Shelden.
The suit seeks to compel Shelden to furnish the telephone numbers of registered voters in Champaign County, calling such a task a ?nondiscretionary duty of the election authority? under Illinois law.
When residents register to vote, they have the option of providing their phone number to the county clerk, but are not required to provide it. The state is seeking the numbers that voters provided.
?The statute clearly provides this is a nondiscretionary duty and the State Board of Elections is required to enforce the statute,? said Melissa Merz, spokeswoman for Illinois attorney general Lisa Madigan, about the lawsuit.
Shelden announced in May 2002 that he would cease putting telephone numbers in Champaign County voter files, and he also deleted existing numbers. Shelden, a Republican, said he was taking the step because of complaints his office was receiving that voters were being bombarded by prerecorded political messages.
Shelden was unrepentant Tuesday, saying that he believes what he's doing is popular with constituents.
?I'm not surprised,? he said. ?I'm disappointed. We'd like to think the State Board of Elections would be taking the side of voters instead of the politicians. I'm going to stick to my position and we'll fight this in court.?
Shelden will be represented by the Champaign County state's attorney's office.
The county clerk said that the only reason to collect the phone numbers is so they can be sold to political organizations and politicians.
?The state board wants my staff to do the work of the political parties,? Shelden said. ?The state board isn't using these numbers. They're getting them from me and selling them to political parties and candidates.?
Shelden showed The News-Gazette a file filled with letters from county residents thanking him for taking his stand.
?Hang in there,? reads one handwritten letter. ?You are correct. The state is way overreaching and aggressive campaigners need to be reined in.?
The case is scheduled to be heard at 1:30 p.m. April 9.