Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl: Filing for elected office in Evanston is ‘too complex’


(Daily file photo by Zack Laurence) Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl speaks at a city event last year. Tisdahl released a statement on Tuesday explaining the decisions reached by the city’s electoral board.

Nora Shelly, City Editor

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl released a statement on recent decisions made by the city’s Electoral Board on Tuesday, saying filing for office in Evanston is “too complex.”

Tisdahl, who is part of the three-member board along with city clerk Rodney Greene and Ald. Ann Rainey (8th), released the statement nearly a week after the board overruled mayoral candidate Jeff Smith’s objections to all four of his competitors’ petitions.

Smith filed the objections against the petitions of Ald. Brian Miller (9th), Ald. Mark Tendam (6th), former Evanston Township supervisor Gary Gaspard and businessman Steve Hagerty in late December. Smith disputed the accuracy of their filings, arguing Miller and Tendam had filed without indicating a party and had not made clear the election date on their petitions. As for Gaspard, Smith alleged he had filed for an election that did not exist, and he held Hagerty had filed for the wrong election.

Objections from a supporter of Miller were filed against Tendam, Gaspard and Hagerty earlier in December. Those objections came after Miller filed his petitions in November, although City Clerk Rodney Greene had previously announced the proper filing dates to be in December.
Miller alleged the proper dates to be in November, later citing a forgotten 1992 referendum that requires the city to hold a primary if there are more than two candidates in a mayoral case. The three other candidates in the race at the time scrambled to file their petitions.

The objections against Tendam were withdrawn before the hearing, and the board overruled the other objections. Tisdahl said both Smith’s and Miller’s objections did not “rise to a level serious enough to deny ballot access.”

“The voters expect, requested and deserve a choice for mayor,” she said in the statement. “The volunteers who collected signatures deserve to have their work respected.”

Other objections filed against city clerk candidate Devon Reid were thrown out in December as well. Tisdahl said the objections were more complicated for “technical reasons” but were also thrown out to ensure ballot access.

In the statement, Tisdahl recounted her own experience filing to run for office, a process she characterized as confusing. Augmenting her confusion was the fact that two election lawyers gave her two different answers when she came to them with questions, and the city attorney is legally unable to answer candidates’ inquiries.

Tisdahl said similar confusion was apparent in this election cycle.

“The date of the election, whether to have or not to have a primary, filing deadlines and a host of other questions have been raised,” she said. “No one should have to be an attorney or hire an attorney in order to run for office in Evanston.”

Tisdahl said she thinks it “appropriate” for the city clerk and city attorney to work together after the election to resolve the issues raised in the various objections.

“Our election process needs to be clear, fair and as easy as possible,” she said. “We should encourage people to run. We can do much better and we will.”

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