The fight over whether the Bloomington Election Commission should be dissolved turned a bit more cordial Friday as those on opposite sides of the issue agreed in court to quickly swap evidence in hopes of meeting a fast-approaching deadline.
Libertarians and Republicans collected 1,300 signatures to put a referendum on November’s ballot, asking voters if they want to kill the BEC. Last week BEC commissioner Denise Williams—backed by McLean County Democrats—asked a judge to toss hundreds of those signatures to keep the question off the ballot.
Williams appeared in McLean County court Friday opposite Connie Beard, the McLean County Republican Party chair who turned in the 1,300 signatures originally. In front of Judge Paul Lawrence, they agreed to work together to try and narrow the scope of Williams’ challenge and exchange evidence with each other by Aug. 24. Another hearing is set for Aug. 27, when Lawrence could decide whether the referendum will make the ballot. The deadline for a decision is Aug. 30.
“I can’t say I’ve ever done one of these before,” Lawrence said, referring to the court deciding whether a referendum makes the ballot. “It’s new to all of us.”
Beard said she may not be able to attend the Aug. 27 hearing because of a previously scheduled family trip. Lawrence suggested that another person join the case alongside her, so that person can be in court Aug. 27. Beard said she doesn’t plan to hire an attorney because it was too expensive.
The Aug. 27 hearing is scheduled for 90 minutes but may go longer depending on what evidence and arguments are presented, Lawrence said.
At issue is the validity of the 1,300 signatures collected by Libertarians and Republicans who want to dissolve the BEC and fold its duties into the county clerk’s office. They need 1,000 signatures minimum to make the ballot.
Dissolving the BEC would be a step toward fixing an odd quirk of McLean County election law. The nonpartisan BEC administers elections in the City of Bloomington. But the partisan county clerk’s office administers elections in Normal and elsewhere in the county. Critics say the twin election authorities is inefficient and potentially confusing.
Democrats, including Williams, say they don’t want to dissolve the BEC without first taking steps toward the creation of a countywide election commission to replace it. Democrats say they’re opposed to handing over election duties to the elected county clerk—currently Republican Kathy Michael.
Williams was represented in court by Josh Rohrscheib.
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