Township Electoral Board removes clerk candidate from ballot for April election

BREAKING: Township Electoral Board removes clerk candidate from ballot for April election

Erin Redmond, Assistant Editor
8:02 pm CST January 19, 2017

After three separate hearings, the Homer Township Officers Electoral Board has made a decision: Marcela Cuevas, a candidate for clerk in the upcoming April 4, 2017 Consolidated Election, is off the ballot.

The board met for the third time Thursday, Jan. 19 to announce its decision to sustain the objection filed by Renea Wojnowski, a resident of Lockport and Homer Township, that stated Cuevas was not eligible to run for the office of Township clerk at the time she filed her candidacy paperwork. Township Supervisor Pam Meyers and Trustee John Kruczek voted to sustain the objection (Remove Cuevas from the Ballot), while Trustee Vicki Bozen dissented (Keeping Cuevas on the Ballot).

“Any time you have a … decision on a political question there’s always two sides: one that wins and one loses,” Homer Township Attorney Jerry Sramek said. “We are the initial form for the decision of this, so I think it’s very important that part of our job is to clearly articulate the reasons for the decision being made, so that if this is not the final form for review, there’s an adequate basis of understanding for what we did and why we did it.”

While the board and both parties were in agreement that Cuevas was a resident of Homer Township for a year when she filed her candidacy paperwork Dec. 16, 2016,  — as it was determined at the previous meeting she moved into the Township Dec. 17, 2015 — Meyers and Kruczek were guided by the Schumann v. Fleming decision, which states a “qualified” candidate must be a resident for a year.

The written decision stated that the board believed Cuevas was not a “qualified” candidate when she was receiving petitions to run for office or when she signed her Statement of Candidacy Nov. 23, 2016.

“The candidate swears at the time of signing that he or she is qualified — not that he or she will be qualified by the time the Statement of Candidacy is filed,” Sramek read from the written decision. “ … Marcela Lynn Cuevas is not eligible for the candidacy of Homer Township clerk in the Consolidated Election of April 4, 2017, and, therefore, her name should not appear on the ballot for said office for said election.”

Cuevas was running with the Homer Township Independent Party against the winner of the Republican primary, which will be held Feb. 28. That race includes current Clerk Linsey Sowa.

Cuevas’ attorney, Thomas Condon, filed a motion to strike the objection at the Jan. 11 public hearing, but it was unanimously denied by the board, prompting a trial. Evidence provided by Wojnowski in the form of a mortgage document provided indisputable evidence that Cuevas was a resident as of Dec. 17, 2015. What was up for debate, however, was the timeframe in which the residency requirement is fulfilled.

Because 2016 was a leap year, Cuevas argued that the file date — Dec. 16, 2016 — fulfilled the one-year residency requirement.

Bozen wrote in dissent that, based on the evidence, she did not believe Cuevas moved to Homer Township with the sole purpose of running for office, citing the $35,000 down payment she made on her house in July 2015.

“… Had the candidate signed her Statement of Candidacy and petitions on Dec. 16, 2016, there would not be an issue, unlike the Schumann case where the candidate moved into the Township three months before filing for elected office,” Bozen’s dissent stated.

Condon appeared to express disdain that written statements were prepared ahead of time and that no public deliberation was made during the meeting. He asked Sramek to ensure that no deliberation was made outside of the meeting, to which the Township attorney assured him he only provided legal counsel.

While the decision was not unanimous, Wojnowski expressed gratitude one was made.

“I am thankful that it’s done today,” the objector said. “I was just really thankful as a citizen of the Township to have the opportunity to participate in these kinds of things and say how you feel and try to do what’s right. I’m just happy that things went the way that they did, and I was able to have my word heard.”

Condon and Cuevas declined to comment after the meeting on if the Homer Township Independent Party would attempt to further appeal the board’s decision.

For Current information See Press Release http://willcountynews.com/2017/01/21/homer-township-board-decision-to-be-appealed-in-will-county-circuit-court/

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