DIXON — Three Lee County board members running for re-election are facing objections to their candidate petitions because they were paperclip-bound.
This is the first time in several years that a petition from a candidate for the County Board has been questioned. In general, objections are usually made against the validity of signatures or the manner in which they were collected.
Dixon resident Jennifer Lawson said Republican County Council District 1 incumbents Mike Koppien, Chris Norberg and Jim Schielein should be dropped from the June 28 primary ballot because their nomination papers were prepared at the using paperclips. Lawson is a resident of District 1.
The Illinois Election Code does not specify how petitions should be bound — by paperclip, staple, rubber band, envelope, or other form of office supplies — but it does require that they be bound together as a book with numbered, consecutive pages that cannot be separated or rearranged at will.
The County Elections Commission is constituted by statute of the county clerk, circuit clerk and state attorney, and the group met last week to establish rules and procedures for how to deal with complaints. They decided to follow a hearing process and hired local attorney Tim Zollinger to oversee testimony, evidence and statements for the three objection hearings, which took place Friday at the Old Courthouse in the Lee County.
Attorney Kylee Miller, representing Lawson, argued that the only fact relevant to the objections is that the papers were bound by a paperclip and that is not sufficient binding.
Members dropped off their five-page packages by paper clip on March 7, and a receipt for the materials was added to each.
Deputy County Clerk Deb Phillips testified that a paperclip was sufficient to bind the papers. When contestants pick up their blank packets, they are also bound with a paperclip.
Miller said while it’s standard practice for the county, using a paperclip isn’t enough.
It was not possible to test if the pages could be deleted without removing the paperclip, as this would amount to modifying the package, which Zollinger would not allow.
Miller said binding is “not a trivial or finicky requirement” and is in place to protect the integrity of documents against fraud.
Dixon’s attorney, Courtney Kennedy, represented Koppien, Norberg and Schielein, who said they each used large ribbed paper clips to properly attach the pages, and that the objector failed to meet his burden of proof to Say the opposite.
A paperclip is sufficient and adequate use, she says.
The three hearings took place consecutively and each lasted just under half an hour.
The next step is for Zollinger to file a report with his recommendations which will likely be completed by the end of next week. There will be a two week period if either party wishes to file an exception. The electoral council will then have the last word.
It will be a sharp turnaround as the county must certify the primary ballot by April 27.
Last year, Lawson, who is an environmental engineer, spoke out against South Dixon Solar’s proposed 3,838-acre development as the project’s neighbor with concerns including cutting off future development, how to tie the land for 40 years should not be considered a temporary use, the effect on tourism and whether the transmission lines would be able to handle the project.
The project was finally approved by the county council in December and will span a wide footprint south of the industrial park on National Route 26.