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Peoria County judge denies request to throw contested auditor referendum off ballot

Cass Herrington
Peoria Public Radio

Peoria County's election won't be halted while a lawsuit challenging the auditor referendum on the November ballot is underway.

That's the order of Judge James Mack. He denied a request by auditor Jessica Thomas and Karrie Alms to issue an emergency preliminary injunction.

"The possibility of not printing the ballots is already water over the dam," the judge said. Early voting and voting by mail began on Thursday. He argued granting an injunction would essentially be a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs, Alms and Thomas.

The plaintiffs argue the Peoria County Election Commission missed a statutory deadline to file the language which appears on the ballot. They also contend the wording of the question is unfairly slanted to produce the county board's desired outcome.

"This court must make the county election commission abide by the law," said attorney Charles Schmadeke, who represents Thomas and Alms.

The state's attorney's office contests those arguments. They contend procedures were properly followed. Civil chief assistant state's attorney Jennie Boswell said the language wasn't late.

She said the wrong version of the referendum language was initially sent to the Peoria County Election Commission, and the updated language filed Aug. 26 with a handwritten nunc pro tunc making the language retroactive to Aug. 22 is a "paper trail notation."

Boswell said an emergency injunction request was improper for this case because state law allows the plaintiffs to challenge the referendum after the election.

"There is a remedy," Boswell said.

She compared it to the injunction granted to halt the imminent demolition of the old Rock Island County courthouse.

"This isn't the crane before the courthouse," she said.

Mack did say the plaintiffs are welcome to file for a temporary restraining order to not count the ballots with the contested question, if they wish.

The judge issued no opinions on the merits of the case itself. A case management conference is scheduled for Feb. 23, 2023.

Jessica Thomas is a member of the WCBU Community Advisory Board.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.