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Letter to the Editor: Response to Democracy Question in MG

Written by Morton Grove resident and former library board member Patrick Kansoer

In an opinion piece recently, a contributor asked the question: "What Happened to Democracy in Morton Grove?"

The answer is, "It worked," and here's why.

Representative government is based on rules. The rules are very specific. In the case of running for office and the steps getting to that point, the rules can be complicated. So can the job of holding public office be complicated.

There is a whole body of printed rules available to every citizen that show, step-by-step, what needs to be done before you can be placed on the ballot. These are not suggestions, they are requirements. Do them the way you are supposed to, you get to put your name in front of the electorate…don't do them the way you are supposed to and you run the risk of not having that opportunity. Part of being a responsible candidate is not only making sure that your papers are in order, but examining those of your opposition to satisfy yourself that any opposition papers are also in order. Nominating petitions are public documents, and as such are available to anyone who has an interest in looking at them.

Further, there are many steps that can be taken should a candidacy be challenged, as was recently illustrated in the case of the Chicago mayoral campaign. The first step is the local board of elections, whose procedure is governed by the Clerk of Cook County. It is a legal procedure with specific rules. Both parties are allowed the opportunity to present their case; both parties have the right to legal representation; both parties have the right to cross-examine and to present witnesses. Then the Board of Elections rules.The ruling is based on whether or not the election law has been followed…not just "sort of," but to the letter. 

Nit-picky? Perhaps, but then the law is nit-picky.

Holding a public office is a great honor and a great responsibility. It requires more than a "good heart" and "good intentions." Among other things, because you are spending other peoples' money, it requires considerable attention to detail. In short, it requires following the rules…all of the rules…all of the time.

It hurts when you want to serve in office and you are not given that opportunity. It hurts when you have submitted nominating petitions and then are removed from the ballot by a local election board. 

I know. It happened to me in 2006 when I wanted to run for Cook County Commissioner and was removed from the ballot by the Cook County Election Board because there was, in their opinion, a flaw that could not be overcome.

Was I angry at my opposition for making the objection? You bet I was. Was it their fault that I or my supporters had made a mistake that caused me to not be qualified to run? No, it was not their fault. To quote William Shakespeare: "The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in the stars, but in ourselves."

We teach our children that we should follow the rules. We teach them to take personal responsibility when they make a mistake. Shouldn't we practice what we preach?

Alexander Hudson February 08, 2011 at 08:41 PM
While I think the writer of this Letter to the Editor makes a very compelling argument, he does not address the specific objections raised in the other Letter. The aggrieved candidate claims that the objections are petty and irrelevant, and meant only to make access to the ballot harder than it should be. This argument should have been addressed. Not all objections are created equal: some are legitimate objections with firm grounding in the law, while others are truly and obviously just meant to cause frustration. Interpretation of the law is a tricky thing. Despite what some people may try to claim, the law is often not black-and-white. Rather, it requires some degree of common-sense interpretation, and some fealty to the intent of the law's authors, to the extent that this is possible. If interpretation of the law were easy, we would not need judges. The aggrieved candidate, in her own Letter to the Editor, claims that most of the objections were eventually thrown out as irrelevant. If this is true, then it suggests that the candidates who raised the objections were merely trying to deny access to the ballot, and for whatever reason lacked the courage to face the aggrieved candidate in a fair election. Perhaps she is to blame for inadequacies in her petition; however, this is no excuse to play petty politics, especially for small-time local office. If politics devolves to this at your local library, how can you expect our state or national politics to be any better?
Pat Craig February 08, 2011 at 10:00 PM
As the aggrieved candidate stated, most of the objections were thrown out, (as were all the objections to the other two incumbent candidates who remain on the ballot). There were obviously then objections of substance that the board of elections found compelling enough to cause removal. To restate the charge that challenging filing papers is somehow not playing fair is a straw man argument. The challenge mechanism is part of the process and is there for making certain that things are done properly. All offices, no matter how local are important. The conduct of those who hold them affects the lives and finances of those they represent. Bottom line here is, take responsibility for your own actions, learn by your mistakes. By the way, local offices are those that impact local citizens the most and getting it right is in no way petty, trying to blame someone else for pointing out a mistake that you and your supporters are culpable for is.

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