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Illinois State Board of Elections deadlocked over St. Clair judges re-election run

lawbook and gavel

When their terms are up, sitting judges who want to hold onto their seats usually run for election as nonpartisan candidates. It's called "retention." But this year, three St. Clair County circuit court judges who are running like they're new to the bench. And they're doing it as Democrats.

  It's a novel way to approach an election, and one that led to an objection from Belleville City Clerk Dallas B. Cook. Members of the state elections board deadlocked on whether it's allowed. The vote was 4-to-4.

  Judges need to get three-fifths of the votes to keep their jobs in a retention election. Instead, these St. Clair County judges said they will resign their seats in December after standing for election in November. Winning only requires a majority.

Their attorney, Michael Kasper, said it's a more democratic way to choose judges. "A judge who decides to seek retention presents the voters with a choice, up or down on one person," he said. "By filing to run in the primary election, that creates an election so the voters actually have a choice."

Cook's attorney, Aaron Weishaar said the judges were "playing games" with the Illinois Constitution. The board's decision means for now they'll stay on the ballot, but the issue is likely to wind up in circuit court in either Sangamon County or Cook County. Elections board members also voted to seek a legal opinion from Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

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