Steven Wailand v. City of Macomb

wailand

To most Americans, the principal of the candidate who earns the most votes wins an election makes sense.  But that’s not the case for officials in the City of Macomb, Illinois.

On February 26, 2013, the City held elections for several city offices, including the Second Ward Alderman seat. Western Illinois University student Steven Wailand was a candidate in that race and faced Kay Hill, the incumbent alderman who was appointed by Macomb’s mayor.

Despite getting 17 of the 33 votes cast in that election – which is 51.52 percent of the vote – the City refused to recognize Mr. Wailand as the winner and instead scheduled a runoff election between the same two candidates.  This was decided despite the fact that Macomb’s governing City code states that the candidate who receives a “majority” of votes wins. The City claims that its definition of “majority” requires a candidate to win “50 percent plus-one vote” – not more than half.

The problem is that the City’s purported definition of “majority” cannot be found anywhere; not in City ordinance, rule or regulation.  To the contrary, not only is “majority” defined as “more than half” in every dictionary to be found, but also courts across this state, including the Illinois Supreme Court, has recognized the definition of “majority” as meaning “more than half.”

The City’s refusal to recognize Mr. Wailand as the winner and its holding of a runoff election is in effect nullifying the citizens’ vote in this election and raising serious questions of constitutional law. The right to vote and see that vote put into effect is a due process right protected by the Illinois Constitution.

The Liberty Justice Center stepped in on Mr. Wailand’s behalf and took this case to court. LJC filed a motion for temporary restraining order to prevent the City from seating anyone other than Steven, who was the winner of the February 26 election.  On April 8, 2013, the Court granted LJC’s motion, ordering that the results of the runoff election be sealed, pending the Court’s final decision in the case, which will be issued April 26, 2013, at the conclusion of a final evidentiary hearing.


 

Update:

Today, McDonough County Judge Rodney Clark issued a decision in favor of Steven Wailand, upholding the result of his victory in the City of Macomb’s February Second Ward aldermanic race.

This case turned on the City’s arbitrary definition of a single word – “majority” – as used in the City’s Municipal Code. But the implications of the City’s actions “reached the heart of Steven Wailand’s and all Macomb citizens’ constitutional right to vote and have their votes counted, rights that are protected by the Illinois Constitution,” said Diane Cohen, general counsel of the Liberty Justice Center of the Illinois Policy Institute and lead attorney on the case.

On Feb. 26, 2013, the City held elections for several city offices, including the Second Ward alderman seat. Western Illinois University student Steven Wailand was a candidate in that race and faced Kay Hill, the incumbent alderman who was appointed by Macomb’s mayor. Despite getting 17 of the 33 votes cast in that election – which is 51.52 percent of the vote – the City refused to recognize Wailand as the winner and instead scheduled a runoff election between the same two candidates. This was decided despite the fact that Macomb’s governing City code states that the candidate who receives a “majority” of votes wins. The City claimed that its definition of “majority” requires a candidate to win “50 percent plus-one vote” – not more than half.

That is when the Liberty Justice Center stepped in and took Steven’s case to court. Through emergency litigation, LJC was able to secure a temporary restraining order prior to the April 9 runoff to stop the City from installing anyone other than Steven to the office of Second Ward alderman.

In today’s decision, the Court declared that it is “not logical to have a person receive more than 50 percent of the vote but yet, not be the winner. This is not how America decides who should be elected.”

The Court therefore ordered the Macomb City Clerk to notify Steven that he was elected to the office of Second Ward Alderman and to administer the oath of office to Steven Wailand at the Macomb City Council meeting in May.

LJC is a nonpartisan, nonprofit litigation center dedicated to advancing liberty, limiting government and protecting freedoms guaranteed under the Illinois and U.S. Constitutions.  Through the support of liberty-loving Illinoisans around the state, LJC was able to offer pro bono legal representation to Steven. This case stands as a reminder that we must remain eternally vigilant in the protection of liberty from government’s arbitrary enforcement of the law. The Illinois Supreme Court has recognized that voting is “the expression of the people of their will” and is “fundamental to a viable form of government.” This ruling reaffirms the citizens of Macomb and all Illinoisans’ constitutionally protected right to vote and have their votes counted.

For more information, or to arrange an interview about the case, contact Diana Rickert, Director of Media Relations for the Illinois Policy Institute, at (312) 607-4977 or by email at drickert@illinoispolicy.org

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