Electoral Board postpones objection hearing for Evanston Voter Initiative


Owen Stidman/Daily Senior Staffer

The Evanston Voter Initiative objection hearing. The two opposing parties debated the legality of the potential referendum question.

Emma Yarger, Reporter

The Municipal Officers Electoral Board’s Jan. 9 objection hearing for the Evanston Voter Initiative’s referendum question was postponed after EVI petitioners submitted a motion to dismiss the opposition.

EVI’s referendum question, which would go on the March 17 ballot, would allow Evanston residents the opportunity to enact city ordinances through voter petitions and referendums, according to the EVI petition.

The petitioners of EVI are legally represented by former Illinois governor and Pritzker School of Law alumnus Patrick Quinn. A group of Evanston residents oppose the petitioners, hoping to keep the referendum question off of the March ballot.

Residents showed up in support of both sides of the issue, but people on both sides expressed frustration with the bureaucratic processes of the board and their alleged lack of preparedness for the hearing. Carolyn Murray, a 5th Ward resident and advocate, said she is concerned that her votes and opinions are not being heard or represented by the council.

“You force us to go to an off-scale legal battle to make them do their job,” Murray said. “It’s an abomination.”

The objectors claim the referendum question is confusing to voters and does not adhere to state law because the wording of the question constitutes a binding referendum, which is not allowed by Illinois state law.

EVI petitioner Allison Harned said the referendum question may be perceived as confusing, but that it needs to be wordy to cover all of the legal points necessary.

For the initiative to be enacted, two things must occur. First, EVI must win this hearing, which would allow the referendum to be on the ballot for the election in March. Second, a majority vote in favor of the initiative would be required to pass the issue.

“I’m disappointed because I would like to move on to the campaign and start convincing people to vote yes for this exciting initiative,” Harned said.

The electoral board planned to begin the hearing Thursday, but when EVI petitioners submitted a motion to dismiss the objection altogether, Mayor Stephen Hagerty decided that the objectors deserved time to read the motion and respond to it.

“I care about fairness, and I care about people having the opportunity to, you know, read documents to respond properly to documents,” Hagerty said. “And this could go either way.”

The board decided that objectors must have completed and shared their response to the motion by 5 p.m. Saturday. Petitioners had until 5 p.m. Monday to submit a reply.

According to City Clerk Devon Reid, this hearing will be expedited from now on to stay on schedule, especially to finalize and print the ballots for the March election if the referendum question is approved for the ballot.

The hearing was rescheduled for 6 p.m. Wed. Jan. 15 at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center.

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