Legal Battles Ensue To Plague Collinsville Township Races
By Stephanie Malench
On January 12, the Collinsville Township Electoral Review Board held a two hour hearing via Zoom regarding three residents who had filed nomination papers for the April 6 elections. The board then recessed until Thursday, January 14 at 9:00 a.m. (then postponed until 5:00 p.m. that day).
The committee was made up of Township Supervisor Dan Hopkins, senior-most Township Trustee Mike Foley, and Township Clerk Cathy Allison. Township Attorney Justin Mattea was also in attendance.
Johnathan Gitchoff filed a petition in objection to Alfred Lee Gildersleeve III’s nomination papers for Township Highway Commissioner having over the maximum number of signatures allowed to be placed on the ballot. Gitchoff was represented by attorney John Rekowski.
Gildersleeve had 403 signatures. Illinois law 10 ILCS/10-3 provides that nomination petitions for a total number of signatures equal to not less than 5% (224) or more than 8% (359) of the ballots cast (4480) in the 2017 election.
Gitchoff also objected to Gildersleeve’s papers because he filled out his statement of candidacy that he is a candidate for “Collinsville Township Road Commissioner” and the nomination petitions nominate him to be a candidate for “Collinsville Township Street Commissioner” instead of the Township Highway Commissioner listed in 60 ILCS 1/73-5.
Gildersleeve did not call in to the meeting during his allotted time, but did call in after the 15 minute recess between cases, citing technical difficulties with Zoom.
When he was given the opportunity to make a statement, he said he “thinks removing someone for too many signatures is Draconian and anyone who wants to be on the ballot should be”.
The other two objections were to candidates for township trustee Jason Rehg and Ashley Stewart by Mark Achenbach. Achenbach was represented by Attorney Mike Wesley in both hearings.
The first hearing was in opposition to Rehg’s papers and included five counts. The first count was for fraudulent statement of candidacy, saying that Rehg was not a registered voter in the Collinsville Township and was registered in Glen Carbon as of December 28, 2020 by examination of the voter rolls by Achenbach, available through the county.
Rehg claims that he moved into his current house in Collinsville from his home in Glen Carbon in early September, but still voted using his Glen Carbon address for the November 6 election but was changed on November 20, 2020. He submitted a copy of his card as evidence.
The next four objections Achenbach raised were also raised in his objection to Stewart’s candidacy.
Count two in Rehg’s case (count one in Stewart’s) was “Heading of Petition Sheets are not all the same”.
Achenbach argued that both candidates were inconsistent in filling out the office being nominated for, sometimes stating “Trustee” and other times “Township Trustee” (Stewart also had headings labeled Twonship Trustee”) in violation of Illinois law 10 ILCS 5/10-4 and requested signatures from pages incorrectly labeled struck from the record.
Achenbach also argued that Stewart did not write her name the same way at the to of each document, sometimes writing Ashley Stewart, Ashley C. Stewart, and sometimes Ashley Christine Stewart. He asserts not using the same name on all pages can cause confusion for voters when voting, and produced an extensive list of other Ashley Stewarts in the greater St. Louis Metro area (none of which were listed as living in Collinsville Township).
The third count in Rehg’s case and second in Stewart’s ivnolved Achenbach believing some of the signatures were either not registered voters at the address listed or not registered voters in Collinsville Township.
Achenbach submitted as evidence a list of signatures he wished the local election official check for both candidates and invalid signatures be struck in accordance with 10 ILCS 5/3-1.2.
Count number four (three for Stewart) entailed signatures not being genuine, as some were either printed instead of signed in cursive and two signers signed Rehg’s petitions more than once, including Township Assessor Peter Poletti.
The final count on Rehg’s and the fourth on Stewart’s was the use of nonstandard abbreviations namely Cville, Coll, CV, Mad, and Madco, or ditto marks for the city and county on both sets of petitions, according to ILCS 5/10-4.
According to the statute “the use of ditto marks and non-standard abbreviations makes the address of the qualified voters unclear”. However, Achenbach had no trouble checking the status of voters for the previous count.
Count four against Stewart was that two pages of the circulator’s affidavit were not notarized.
After receiving the copy of the case against her, Stewart was able to obtain an affidavit from the notary, Geraldine Foley, who works in the township office, that she acknowledged that she did not complete the notary section completely on the two forms, due to the fact that the signature line was cut off, eliminating the visual clue to the notary to sign.
Should all of the counts against Rehg and Stewart be sustained, the candidates would not have the necessary signatures to remain on the ballot.
On Thursday, January 14, the board met at 5:00 p.m. to release the results of the hearing after three days of deliberations.
Because Gildersleeve was not in attendance for his hearing after being notified by the mail and the sheriff’s office, the objections to his candidacy were upheld and he was removed from the ballot.
Gildersleeve said during an interview that he planned to appeal the results to the Madison County Third Circuit on Tuesday, January 19. Confirmation was not available at the time this story went to press.
The objections to four of the five counts against Rehg were overruled, with the fourth count related to double signatures sustained, allowing Rehg to remain on the ballot.
All five objections to Stewart’s nomination papers were overruled.
The Township Electoral Review Board voted to keep Rehg and Stewart on the ballot because there was no evidence that the errors interfere with voters knowing who the candidates are, what position they are running for, or identification of the voters who signed the petitions.
Achenbach filed an appeal on January 15 to the third circuit court contesting the ruling in favor of Stewart. As of press time, a court date has not been set due to the Martin Luther King holiday on Monday.
The way I read it, Mark Achenbach wasted a LOT of the City’s time and tax money. Why would anyone care so much about whether the name is written exactly the same? And, he didn’t have any problem checking the status of voters. TRIVIAL matters! What would be the motive for such NIT-PICKING?