Law Not Broken in Case of Uncounted Votes for Felon
(CN) - The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment when it failed to count votes cast for a candidate previously convicted on felony corruption charges, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.
Ambrosio Medrano filed papers to be placed on the ballot as alderman in the Chicago Primary in 2007. Three voters objected to the nomination because of a previous felony conviction, but the Circuit Court of Cook County overruled the objection.
Four days before the election, the Illinois Supreme Court overturned the circuit court decision and ordered the Election Board to remove Medrano's name from the ballot or disregard any votes cast for him.
To make clear to voters that Medrano was not an eligible candidate, signs were posted on Election Day at polling places, and all voters were given a notice explaining that votes for Medrano would not be counted. Despite the efforts, 178 votes were cast for Medrano.
Eight registered voters sued the Board of Election Commissioners, alleging retroactive invalidation of their votes in violation of their right to equal protection.
The 7th Circuit agreed with the Illinois Northern District Court's determination that the board did not interfere with the voting process when it complied with the Illinois Supreme Court order.
The circuit noted that Illinois law provides a procedure for contesting election results which the plaintiffs ignored, instead filing a lawsuit in federal court. The court ruled that there are no grounds for federal court interference.
"We have held that state courts have greater authority than federal courts to interpret and apply state election laws," Circuit Judge Ilana Rovner said.