Panel to boot township candidate off spring ballot

Panel to boot township candidate off spring ballot

URBANA — Laura Sandefur will be kicked off the ballot for Cunningham Township Assessor when an electoral board issues its findings in writing this afternoon, board members said during a meeting on Thursday.

The ruling will leave only incumbent Democrat Dan Stebbins' name on the April 9 ballot, which puts him in a position to win another four-year term as township assessor.

In an objection to Sandefur's candidacy, Stebbins argued that she was a Democrat attempting to run as an independent candidate.

On Thursday, Township Supervisor and electoral board member Carol Elliott said that Sandefur's history as a Democrat alone would not necessarily disqualify her from running as an independent candidate, but her actions this fall did create a problem with the petitions all candidates are required to submit as they declare candidacy.

Candidates for elective office need to collect a predetermined number of voter signatures before they can file to have their names printed on ballots. Cunningham Township assessor candidates needed a minimum of 248 signatures, according to Town Clerk Phyllis Clark.

Sandefur originally collected signatures as a Democrat and filed for candidacy in November. But due to a clerical error — she listed the wrong address on her paperwork — she withdrew.

She spent the next month collecting 303 signatures and filed as an independent candidate in December, after the deadline for party-affiliated candidates had already passed. Party-affiliated candidates are not allowed to run as independent candidates.

But the problem, the electoral board said, is not her own history as a Democrat, even though she currently serves as a Democratic appointee to the Champaign County Board of Review and served as a Democratic precinct committee chairwoman before she resigned that position on the day she filed as an independent candidate.

The problem is that she and her husband, Kevin Sandefur, both spent time collecting signatures on her behalf, first as a Democrat and later as an independent candidate. Petition circulators, Elliott said, are prohibited from collecting signatures for candidates from two different parties during the same election cycle.

Between Laura and Kevin Sandefur, the pair collected 195 signatures on petitions for her candidacy. All of those signatures will be rendered invalid by the electoral board, putting her well below the 248-signature minimum for assessor candidates to get their names on the ballot.

Electoral board members found a few other errors with Sandefur's papers, but the rest were minor and, taken alone, would not have been enough to disqualify her.

The board's decision hands an unopposed election to Stebbins, and he said on Thursday that he was pleased with the board's findings.

"I'll continue serving and continue going over assessments and see what needs to be done," Stebbins said.

Laura Sandefur declined a request for comment following the announcement.

She will have the option to appeal the decision to a judge. Her attorney, Andrew Bequette, said on Thursday that he and Laura Sandefur had not yet considered how or if to move forward.

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