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Republicans Win Review of Dismissed Complaints

(CN) - The Cook County Republican Party's complaints on election code violations are subject to a full judicial review, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled. In 2005, the Republican Party filed eight complaints with the state election board, alleging campaign finance violations by Democratic Party ward organizations, chairmen and committee members.

The complaints included using publicly funded office space for political activities and failing to report the use of office space as an "in-kind" contribution on campaign financial disclosure documents filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

The election board dismissed the complaints based on tie votes following closed preliminary hearings. An appellate court found that the dismissals were only subject to a limited judicial review of whether the board acted contrary to law in dismissing the complaints. But the state's high court found that the dismissals are subject to judicial review of all questions of law and fact presented by the record.

The state Supreme Court ruled that the appellate court's review was too limited in scope. "Initially, we note that the appellate court's review cannot be deemed meaningful," Justice Kilbride wrote. "The review performed by the appellate court was a simple ministerial act of confirming the board's decision was correct based on the vote count. The Legislature cannot have meant for 'judicial review' by the appellate court to be limited in that manner.

"The Legislature plainly intended tie-vote dismissals to be subject to judicial review under section 9-22 of the Code. The Legislature did not limit the judicial review of tie-vote dismissals in any way."

Chief Justice Fitzgerald and Justices Thomas, Garman and Karameier concurred with the opinion. Justices Freeman and Burke did not take part in the decision.

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