Board delays decision on Cunningham ballot question

Board delays decision on Cunningham ballot question

URBANA — An electoral board has delayed its decision on whether Laura Sandefur stays on the ballot for Cunningham Township Assessor while its members sort through the arguments presented during a Thursday hearing.

The incumbent Township Assessor Dan Stebbins, a Democrat, has protested Sandefur's candidacy on the basis that he thinks she is a Democrat trying to run as an independent candidate.

The board will convene again on Jan. 17, when it could make a final decision.

Stebbins presented his arguments on Thursday in front of three township officers who will decide Sandefur's fate. Stebbins has the burden of proof if he wants Sandefur off the ballot, which would secure an unopposed election for himself.

Stebbins said Sandefur has firmly established her party affiliation while serving as a Democrat on the Champaign County Board of Review, previously serving as a Democratic precinct committee chairwoman and even originally filing for the township assessor election as a Democrat.

Sandefur withdrew that original November filing after listing the wrong address on her paperwork. She filed again in December as an independent candidate after the deadline for filing as a party-affiliated candidate had passed.

Stebbins said state law prohibits a party-affiliated candidate from being listed on the ballot under a different affiliation.

Andrew Bequette, an attorney arguing on Sandefur's behalf, told the electoral board that Stebbins failed on Thursday to provide adequate evidence. He also said that, even if Sandefur had established herself as a Democrat in the past, there is nothing to prevent her from switching parties or, in this case, running without a party affiliation.

"There's simply no law that states that this candidate is a Democrat, she's stuck as a Democrat, and there's no way she's going to be able to run as an independent," Bequette said.

The three-member electoral board -- Cunningham Township Supervisor Carol Elliott, Township Clerk Phyllis Clark and township board member Robert Lewis -- will ultimately decided whether or not Sandefur is eligible for the ballot.