URBANA — Laura Sandefur is asking a judge to get her name back on the ballot after a Cunningham Township electoral board said she was not eligible to run for assessor.
Her attorney, Andrew Bequette, filed the request for a hearing this week, and he will be relying primarily on arguments he made to the electoral board when he makes his appeal to a county judge.
The board kicked Sandefur, who hopes to run for the office as an independent candidate, off the ballot after Dan Stebbins, the incumbent assessor who is running for re-election, filed an challenge to her nominating petitions.
Stebbins, a Democrat, successfully argued before the electoral board that Sandefur and her husband's prior connections to the Democratic Party made them ineligible to collect petition signatures for her run as an independent candidate.
Candidates for office need to collect a predetermined number of signatures before their names are printed on ballots, and the board ruled that all the signatures Sandefur and her husband collected on her behalf were invalid. That ruling put her below the minimum amount needed to get on the ballot.
But now Bequette said Stebbins did not meet his burden of proof, and the electoral board incorrectly applied the law.
"Mr. Stebbins did not present any evidence before the electoral board," Bequette said. "He just gave a speech in which everyone was supposed to assume that what he said in his original petition was true."
That was an argument Bequette made before the electoral board, too, even though Township Attorney Fred Grosser repeatedly reminded board members that the standard of proof in an electoral hearing is not the same as it is in a court of law.
Stebbins on Thursday said he had yet to receive the paperwork on Sandefur's appeal, but he thought the right decision has already been made.
"I felt that the electoral board decision was right on," Stebbins said.
If the court were to uphold the electoral board's decision, Stebbins would be unopposed for re-election to his assessor's office.
Bequette said not only was the evidence insufficient, but the board misinterpreted the law.
"There has been no specific violation of a statute," Bequette said. "Whenever you're talking about silencing the voice of people who have signed nominating petitions, whenever you're taking away a voter's right to vote for a person they might want to vote for, the burden is on the person who wants to silence that voice."