Garton removed from ballot

Paul Thissen

Evanston’s Electoral Board decided 2-1 Thursday that aldermanic candidate Ryan Garton’s name will not appear on the April 5 municipal election ballot because of legal problems with his petitions for candidacy.

Ald. Steven Bernstein now is running unopposed in the Fourth Ward race. Norris Larson, Bernstein’s campaign manager, filed the objection to Garton’s candidacy.

Garton can appeal the decision or run as a write-in candidate. He said he has not yet decided if he will contest the decision.

The Electoral Board members are Mayor Lorraine H. Morton, City Clerk Mary Morris and the senior available alderman. Ald. Arthur Newman (1st) served because Ald. Gene Feldman (9th) was unavailable. Morris and Newman voted to sustain the objection, and Morton voted to keep Garton’s name on the ballot.

The board decided that Garton’s petitions are invalid because only one of his seven petition forms listed the office he was seeking. Candidates must collect signatures for their name to appear on the ballot. Garton needed 69 signatures, so the 15 signatures on the single page that said “Alderman — 4th ward” were not enough.

Garton said the people who circulated the petitions told all potential signers the office for which he was running.

“There is no doubt that the people signing these petitions know that I’m running for the Fourth Ward,” Garton said.

Newman, however, said citizens should be able to determine what office he was running for simply by reading the petition.

“The name of the office is a very basic requirement,” Newman said. “I think it needs to be on the form.”

A similar complaint was filed against Ald. Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd) by Robert Nierodzik, a Second Ward resident not associated with any candidate. The Electoral Board will deliberate on that objection today at 3:30 p.m. at the Evanston Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave.

Jean-Baptiste’s forms also do not include the word “alderman,” but they did specify “Second Ward.” Garton’s forms only specified “City of Evanston.” Because there is only one office specific to the Second Ward, the board could decide that Jean-Baptiste’s forms are clear enough, according to arguments made Tuesday by Michael Dorf, the lawyer representing Jean-Baptiste.

Morton said she disagreed with the majority decision because the problems were only “technicalities.”

“I realize that there is the letter of the law, and I realize that there is the spirit of the law,” Morton said. “It’s obvious that there was no fraud here, it’s obvious that there was just some misunderstanding. I don’t think the errors I see are significant enough to mitigate the signatures of the citizens.”

But Newman and Morris agreed that the law required them to remove Garton’s name from the ballot.

“Everybody has a duty to follow the law,” Newman said. “The law is not something that came be pushed over to the side.”

Garton admitted his forms did not state the office he was seeking but said he had complied with the intentions of the law by telling potential signers he was running for alderman.

“The question really for the election council is ‘Did I substantially comply with the intentions of the law?'” Garton said.

Garton said he believed his forms had been filled out correctly because officials at the City Clerk’s office and the Cook County Board of Elections reviewed his forms and said they were filled out properly.

But John Cutrone, the lawyer representing Larson in filing the complaint, said despite Garton’s noble intentions, he was not entitled to have his name on the ballot.

“The sad fact is he did not meet the legal standards,” Cutrone said.

Reach Paul Thissen at [email protected].