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May 10, 2006

The Lefstein opinion: Only the elected may vote

Here's the text of the opinion from Rock Island attorney Stuart Lefstein on whether appointed committeepeople are entitled to vote when the district congressional commitee selects a replacement for Lane Evans as the congressional nominee.

He says not; that only elected committeepeople cast ballots. He also said committeepeople can can allocate their weighted votes among however many candidates they want.

Posted by jcb at May 10, 2006 02:07 PM


Keep in mind that the opinion carries no legally binding authority and is contrary to established past practice and interpretation. Do any of the Democratic County Chairmen have the letter from Mike Madigan, from probably 2 years ago, stating that we could appoint committeemen to open precincts from anywhere in the county? I no longer have my copy but do remember receiving it.

Posted by: chair at May 10, 2006 03:10 PM

It appears that if Evans wants to give his "brother" Phil Hare his seat in Congress, he's gonna have to do it without the help of Gianulis and his appointed committeemen.

Ooooh, don't you love the soap opera that the local Democrat party has become?

Posted by: paladin at May 10, 2006 03:42 PM

Lefstein has opened his Opinion to serious challenge by asserting that there is no legal basis for county chairmen appoining precint committeemen who do not live in their precints.

Lefstein buttresses his argument by the fact that if an elected committeeman moves out of his precint he gives up his committeemanship.

The statute only says that the appointed committeeman has to be from the county.

What Lefstein does not recognize is that it is the prerogative of the County Chairman to appoint precint committeemen. So it follows that if the committeeman moves out of his precint, the county chairman should appoint a replacement. This could be the same committeeman or someone else.

Posted by: Anon at May 10, 2006 04:39 PM

I take no pleasure in the soap operas that has become modern day political procedure for both parties. Both parties have become so wrapped up in the "winning at all costs" and "our way or the highway" attitudes that they are destroying this country with their "fifteen minutes of fame" posturing for the cameras. Like movies the countries politics have become the sound-byte quotable philosophy of the day. They are all pomp and no substance.

Posted by: NoMorePinocchios at May 10, 2006 06:19 PM

Chairman Johnston has done his duty.

The MACHINE is primed.

Congressman Evan's "brother" has the votes.

Let's roll!

Posted by: KateNelson at May 10, 2006 06:34 PM

The question is who paid Lefstein. My lawyer will write an oppinion also if you want.

Posted by: Anonymous at May 10, 2006 06:54 PM

Unfortunately this opinion was written after the answer had been determined by Don Johnston and Mrs. Mike Boland. Did anyone doubt that the legal opinion purchased by Don and Mary would "support" their previously announced statement and process. This is not an unbiased third party opinion like we would have gotten from the State Board of Elections or the Attorney General. Look for an alternative opinion to be published in the near future.

If you follow the logic and make everything consistent you would conclude that if a "qualified" resident of the county, which in Lefstein's opinion means that they must live in the precinct, is appointed to represent their precinct, that those duly appointed committeemen should be allowed to vote. All of the other arguments simply repeat the contention that anyone appointed from outside the precinct has not been legally appointed and THAT is why they should not participate.

As always there is middle ground where neither side was completely right. Now it is up to the Committee to decide what is appropriate and to vote on the process for counting the votes. The right thing to do is for Johnston and Boland to compromise and try to follow the intent and letter of the law. Appointed Committeemen who live in the precinct and were appointed prior to the vacancy becoming official should be allowed to participate and vote. Their precinct IS disenfranchised by excluding their votes. That is NOT democracy. It just makes makes sense. How come nobody ever argued before yesterday that these appointments were not even valid or legal, just that they shouldn't be allowed to vote. Is it because they were accepted by the County Clerk without question because it was a long standing practice? Is it because county chairman have relied upon a prior erroneous legal opinion providing for the appointment of any county resident and it has never been challenged?

This process needs to be conducted in accordance with the law and the process should be reviewed by the State Board of Elections to make sure the law was followed after the vote is taken, no matter what happens in the interim.

Posted by: Anonymous at May 10, 2006 08:56 PM

Anon 8:56 p.m. -- The state board of elections said its responsibility to, if requested, review the process after the vote was the reason it could not offer an opinion about the process before the vote.

Whatever the logic of that, the review you suggest will certainly be conducted if the BOE
is asked to do it.

Anon 3:10 p.m. -- You're right that the opinion has no binding authority. What it does provide, for everyone to see, is the reasoning on which Mr. Johnston and Ms. Boland are proceeding.

I think this is another example of their consistent effort to make an untried process as open to scrutiny as possible. As the elected vs. appointed issue advanced to the fore, they've provided everyone, supporter and opponent alike, with the facts and arguments upon which they depend.

To the several anons who seem eager to devalue the opinion because it was requested by a party to the dispute -- Mr. Lefstein points out in his introduction that the value of an opinion depends upon "the persuasiveness of the reasons supporting it."

The reasons he offers obviously don't persuade everyone; he anticipated as much when he noted, with considerable understatement, that "legal issues often generate debate."

In the opinion, he takes his best shot, and I've seen several instances over the last 34 years when his best shot has been good enough for the judge hearing the case.

(One example that comes instantly to mind is the case of the dueling recorders of deeds, but that's an oldtimer story and I'll spare you.)

Posted by: jcb at May 10, 2006 11:27 PM

Appointed Precinct Committeeman may live anywhere in the county in which they are appointed. That is the past and current practice and interpretation of the law. It is the position of the Democratic Party in previous communications. Appointed Precinct Committeeman have in the past and are currently voting to slate vacancies in nomination. All of this will continue as the Lefstein opinion has no binding effect upon the various party committees. The Lefstein opinion calls "absurd" the idea that appointed Precinct Committeemen may live outside their district. They can because the law says they can in the event that no one is elected from the precinct. To give other examples, Congressman only have to live in the state, not the district, a person may run for States Attorney without living in the county in which they are running, and after statewide redistricting a person may run for office, State Rep. or State Senate, either in the district in which they currently live or in any district that encompasses any part of the previous district. The only thing "absurd" in the Lefstein opinion.

The splitting of the weighted vote opinion is interesting. Past practice (that I am aware of) does not support such an interpretation. The law refers to weighted "vote" not "votes". The law may not be as clear on this point. One thing is clear, virtually every point of the Lefstein opinion is contrary to past practice and interpretation.

Posted by: Anonymous at May 11, 2006 09:21 AM

The way they are reading the law they could vote for every single candidate! Split it all up and make it even. Yet my appointed precinct committeeman can't vote. This is too funny to all be true.

Posted by: Anonymous at May 12, 2006 11:12 AM

One of the great mysteries to me is how the pedestrian Kilbride got on the IL Supreme Court instead of the cerebral and scholarly Lefstein.

Posted by: paladin at May 15, 2006 01:40 PM