Sandefur back on ballot in Cunningham Township, for now

Sandefur back on ballot in Cunningham Township, for now

URBANA — Laura Sandefur has spent this winter bouncing on and off the ballot for Cunningham Township assessor, but her name will appear on absentee ballots after an appellate judge this week stayed a lower court's decision to kick her off.

Depending on the appellate judge's final decision, her name might not be an option at the polls on April 9, but her lawyer said she will keep battling to get on the ballot.

"Laura (Sandefur) is going to keep fighting so that the voters of Cunningham Township get to decide who they elect," said her attorney, Andrew Bequette.

Sandefur has filed as an independent candidate for Cunningham Township assessor. Incumbent Democrat Dan Stebbins has been fighting her candidacy since January on the grounds that he believes she is a Democratic candidate, not independent.

That triggered an electoral board hearing, and last month, three Cunningham Township officers kicked Sandefur off the ballot.

Sandefur challenged the electoral board's ruling, but Champaign County Associate Judge Chase Leonhard ruled this month that the board acted correctly. Sandefur has since asked the 4th District Appellate Court to review the board's decision.

The appellate court stayed the lower court's decision, which means — as of now — Sandefur's name must be printed on ballots. With absentee voting for the April 9 election beginning on Feb. 28, Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten said, she will be on those ballots.

In the meantime, attorneys for Stebbins and Sandefur will argue their cases in appellate court. Both sides will make their arguments before March 14.

If the appellate court decides to uphold the electoral board's decision, Sandefur would be removed from ballots again before the polls open on April 9. If the board's decision is overturned, her candidacy would finally be made official only a few weeks before the election.

Stebbins said on Wednesday that he is still confident the appellate court will uphold the lower court's decision.

"They've only gotten one side of the story, which is her side," Stebbins said.

Sandefur's on-and-off candidacy dates back to November, when she first applied to run for township assessor as a Democratic candidate. She withdrew her candidacy shortly thereafter because she made a clerical error on her paperwork.

She then refiled as an independent candidate in December, after the filing deadline for party-affiliated candidates but before the deadline for independent candidates.

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