Political gamesmanship surrounding candidate petitions is a sleazy business.
Voters in the March Republican primary election were the real winners of a recent dispute over the propriety of the election petitions filed by Stephanie Holderfield, who is running for circuit clerk of Champaign County.
The county's electoral board voted 3-0 last week to allow Holderfield's name to remain on the ballot, rejecting claims that her signature on a Democratic candidate's petitions and some Democrats' signatures on her petitions undermined her candidacy to run as a Republican.
The board's common-sense ruling is a defeat for the kind of sneaky, manipulative politics whereby some try to win an election before the first vote is cast.
Defenders of these kind of tactics contend they are merely upholding the requirements of state election law. But that response is not persuasive. They're really applying legalisms to the sometimes messy business of politics in a way that benefits their favored candidates.
The electoral board's decision is appealable to the courts, but the objector to Holderfield's candidacy who sought to further the candidacy of Richard Winkel, the other GOP candidate for circuit clerk, is not pursuing the case. Perhaps a 2008 appellate court decision that allowed Democrat Brendan McGinty to remain on the ballot in a run for the Champaign County Board played a role in that decision.
Rival Democrats sought to remove McGinty from the primary ballot because a couple pages on his election petitions were incorrectly numbered. They won a favorable ruling from local Circuit Judge Thomas Difanis. But the appellate court, by a unanimous vote, found the incorrect numbering was merely a "technical" violation and that McGinty's petitions were substantially in compliance with state law.
It's important to remember in these kind of cases that state election rules are established to protect the legitimacy of the process, not to limit voters' choices.
The objection to Holderfield's petitions was hyper-technical, transparently political and properly rejected.