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Normal electoral board finds petition to change town government legally invalid

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Backers of a petition aimed at getting a referendum question before Normal voters in November appear headed to court after an electoral board found the petition to be legally invalid.

During a brief meeting Tuesday night, Normal Mayor Chris Koos said the three-person electoral board determined the petition — which sought to get a yes-or-no question regarding dividing the town into districts on the November ballot — did not comply with provisions in the Illinois Municipal Code that say such a question can only be asked of villages, not of towns.

"The board finds that the petition fails to conform to the requirements of (state statute) because the Town of Normal is not a village," Koos read from the board's written order. "The question of public policy may not be placed on the eighth of November ballot."

Attorney David Shestokas, who represents a member of the group Citizens for a Better Normal, said the next step for his clients is taking the matter "down the road to Bloomington to the circuit court." He said the board's findings regarding the petition were a surprise.

"I think we're right on the law, so no, I did not expect this," he told reporters. "We'll file an appeal of this decision. There's a provision to take this to an elected judge, so that will be the first order of business."

Petitions began circulating around Normal earlier this summer. The goal was to get enough signatures so the following question would be on the November ballot: "Shall the town be divided into 6 districts with one trustee from each district?"

Supporters argued that such a system would equate to fairer representation; critics questioned whether the town was too small to be divided into districts, similar to Bloomington's ward system. Currently, the town has an at-large form of representative government.

Petitioners claimed to have gathered about 2,200 signatures in support of getting the question on the ballot by an early August deadline and filed the petitions with the town clerk. Normal resident Patrick Dullard then filed objections to the petition on Aug. 15, triggering formation of the Town of Normal Electoral Board.

That board included Koos, town council member Kevin McCarthy, clerk Angie Huonker. Town counsel Brian Day was appointed as their legal representative.

Shestokas was hired to represent Kathy Siracuse, a woman who turned in the petitions to Huonker in early August, which made her the lead respondent in the case.

Dullard, via his objection, argued the question was not able to be legally asked of Normal and also said a number of collected signatures were invalid; at the time of his objection, he did not include which specific signatures were invalid.

The electoral board overruled the second objection, noting specific signatures would have had to have been listed in order for that objection to be valid, but it did sustain his initial objection: That Normal cannot be petitioned for a referendum question of dividing into districts because it is not a village.

Shestokas said he would respond further to the board's written order "when I go to court."

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Lyndsay Jones is a reporter at WGLT. She joined the station in 2021. You can reach her at lljone3@ilstu.edu.
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