Naperville’s Election Committee Hears Objections to Candidate Petitions

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Two candidates for Naperville City Council with disputed nomination petitions earned the right to remain on the April 4, 2023 Consolidated Election ballot after rulings in their favor Monday morning at a hearing of the Naperville Electoral Board.

Both Derek McDaniel and Nag Jaiswal will continue to be in the running for one of the four open seats.

Derek McDaniel Objection

Arian Ahmadpour filed an objection on Dec. 5 against McDaniel’s petition for office. The first issue was the lack of page numbers. In his written objection, Ahmadpour stated page numbering, “serves an important function to prevent tampering and preserve the integrity of the election process.” 

“These are important structures that must be followed,” said attorney Ross Secler, who appeared on behalf of the objector. “And in this case they weren’t even substantially or even attempted to be followed. The mandatory requirements were not followed at all. Not one page was numbered.” 

The second objection was that the nomination papers were not properly secured as required by the Illinois Election Code. However, during the hearing, the Election Committee found McDaniels’ packet was secured with a binder clip, so that part of the objection was dropped. 

Attorney Keri-Lyn Krafthefer, representing Derek McDaniel, said that the error by the candidate should not result in him being taken off the election ballot. She noted that there had been no claim of possible voter confusion, tampering or fraud.

“We ask that the electoral board should not deprive the voters in the city of Naperville of a choice because the candidate did not comply with a hyper-technical requirement of the election code,” said Krafthefer.

Krafthefer mentioned that three of the four Appellate Courts in Illinois that have heard similar cases have allowed the respective candidates to remain on the ballot. 

After comments from both parties, the three members of the Electoral Board gave their opinions on the case. Mayor Steve Chirico sided with McDaniel. 

“This document is 30 or 40 pages long,” said Chirico. “To bring someone’s attention to a certain page that might be in question, it would take no longer than a minute to go through to find that page, discuss the complaint and make a decision on it. I don’t see this in any way as something that should deny the voters a choice for this type of omission.”

City Councilman Paul Hinterlong agreed with the mayor, noting that as someone who had gone through the filing process multiple times, it can be a confusing process.

Naperville City Clerk Pam Gallahue sided with the objector, “To me, there is no room for interpretation here,” said Gallahue. “The election code states that the page shall be numbered consecutively. Finding that you substantially complied with the code when an entire requirement was omitted will call the integrity of the election process into question.”

The three members of the Electoral Board were then left to decide whether the rule about numbering was meant to be mandatory, or whether it was more of a directory rule, leaving some leeway. Mayor Steve Chirico sided with McDaniel, leaning toward it being more directory.

The group voted 2-1 to overrule the objection to Naperville City Council candidate Derek McDaniel. McDaniel will remain on the ballot in the April election.

“I’m lucky, fortunate and grateful that the hearing went in our favor,” said McDaniel. “My (error) was a pretty simple, straightforward clerical error of not numbering a couple of pages. But that does not negate the fact that everyone has signed my petitions, with the intent to see me on the ballot on April 4.”

Nag Jaiswal Objection

The Electoral Board voted unanimously to grant Elizabeth Zega’s motion to withdraw her original objection to city council candidate Nag Jaiswal’s nomination petition. 

The original objection included details about Jaiswal’s petition not being uniform or consistent as required by the Illinois Election Code. These irregularities consisted of an incorrect date for the consolidated primary, different colored inks for fields in the document, and invalid signature lines. 

Jaiswal remains on the ballot as a candidate in the April election. 

Continuance for Tiffany Stephens Ruling

Discussion of the objection to Naperville mayoral candidate Tiffany Stephens’ nomination petition is continued to Dec. 16. 

The written objection also from Arian Ahmadpour states that prior to July 2022, Stephens was a resident of the City of Aurora and not the City of Naperville. 

Any candidate for the mayoral or city council positions has to reside at an address within the boundaries of the City of Naperville for more than one year prior to the date of “the election or appointment,” as per Illinois Municipal Code. As the consolidated election is April 4, 2023, the objection argues that Stephens does not meet the requirement, thus her name should be removed from the ballot.

Secler said that they had subpoenaed voter registration documents from DuPage County to use as evidence in their case, which they were still waiting to receive. Krafthefer, who is also representing Stephens, said that their side had subpoenaed Indian Prairie School District 204 documents as evidence, and were also still awaiting its arrival.

For that reason, the Electoral Board voted unanimously to continue the hearing on the matter until Friday, December 16 at 10am in Council chambers.

Naperville News 17’s Will Payne reports.

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