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Chicago GOP wins federal case to keep Democrats from serving in GOP slots

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CHICAGO – The Chicago Republicans are happy about a decision in federal court that allows them to control the party affiliations of people serving in their party - something one would assume was the case, which wasn't, until this week's decision made it clear.

Now a person can't vote in Democrat primaries and serve as a Republican committeeman.

Chicago GOP Chairman Chris Cleveland wrote the following to GOP Party Leadership today: 

Republican Party Leaders,

Late yesterday afternoon we scored a significant victory in federal court over Chicago Democrats and the Chicago Board of Elections. U.S. District Court Judge Milton Shadur ruled that we have a First Amendment right to prevent those who vote in Democratic primaries from being seated as Republican committeemen in Chicago, and to that extent our bylaws override state law. The net effect is that 13 ward committeemen have been permanently removed from office.

This ruling has broader implications for the Party in Illinois.

First, some background. In 2014 the Rauner campaign and the city, county, and state parties teamed up to recruit election judges in Chicago. The Rauner campaign wanted to ensure that we had genuine Republicans in every precinct to help reduce fraud.

It worked, and as a result Mike Madigan and Pat Quinn passed an amendment to the election code to make it harder for us. The amendment said that the county chairman could no longer place election judges; the power to do so would now fall to the ward committeeman. The Democrats knew that they could control some of the Republican ward committeemen and capture all of the election judge slots for themselves. To take advantage of the amendment, Democrats ran candidates in the 2016 primary for Republican ward committeeman across the city.

In response, I wrote an amendment to the Cook County bylaws that said that if you vote in a Democratic primary, you can't serve as a Republican committeeman. After the March primary we notified 13 would-be committeemen with Democratic voting histories that they could not serve.

Two of them filed a challenge before the Chicago Board of Elections seeking a ruling that they were, in fact, committeemen. In an astounding move, the Board ruled in their favor.

The CBOE has always favored the Democrats, but this was unprecedented. We responded by filing a federal civil rights case against the Board.

Normally, a Board of Elections does not put up a defense against such suits. As a supposedly-neutral third party they let the other side, in this case the Democrats, argue the case. But in an even more astounding move, the Board had their lawyer, paid for with public money, submit a very aggressive brief and actively argue the case on behalf of the Democrats.

The judge was floored and chastised the Board for its naked display of partisanship. The judge subsequently issued a permanent injunction against the Board, and later a final ruling against their position.

This case wasn't a close call. You can read some of the scathing language the judge had for the Board in the injunction and in the decision.

The broader legal implication of this case is that Mike Madigan cannot decide, through force of law, how the Republican Party operates in this state. As a Republican Party leader, I ask you to keep this in mind. 

If Mike Madigan enacts a state law that unduly burdens our First Amendment rights, we can fight it and we can win.

Chris Cleveland

Just to reiterate – your tax dollars paid for the legal representation the Board of Elections hired to argue on behalf of the Democrat Party.

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34 COMMENTS

  1. It was a close-run thing. The Board was set to meet at 9am on short notice, and sure to vote to uphold the objection to remove Dr. Leef from the ballot. Judge Shadur set a hearing in federal court at 8:45 am to decide on an emergency injunction to stop the hearing. When the hearing started he began to explain at length why he was going to enjoin the hearing while I nervously watched the big click on the courtroom wall move towards 9:00. At 8:51 I interrupted the Judge to note the time. The Judge looked at the clock and issued the emergency injunction (technically called a Temporary Restraining Order) against the Board to stop the hearing. Ten minutes later might have been too late.

  2. Unbelievable of these egotistical democrats to think they represent the republicans. I just can’t wait till the sky falls on Illinois. It is coming and then the fools who vote for these greedy thugs like madigan, emanuel, etc. will rue the day.

  3. How nice to wake up this morning and learn that the fog that is Chicago/Madigan has cleared momentarily. Thank you Chris Cleveland.
    Now the question remains as to how a sane Federal Judge was presiding over a political case in Cook County?

  4. They were Democrat voters, Democrat donors, and volunteers for Democrat candidates. They are Democrats.
    The Republican Party is a private corporation. It is not obliged to hire Democrats to work for it. The GOP has internal rules, and followed them to boot Democrats from using Republican resources.
    In anywhere but Cook County, this would be a very simple matter.

  5. I recall the Bad Old Days when the Chicago GOP Central Committee was loaded with Ward Committeemen who either openly admitted they were Machine operatives or else had a “lot of friends” in the Democratic Party. Either way, their job was to slow down or stop the GOP in Chicago, and they were effective. Since 21% of the population of Illinois lives in the City of Chicago, the effect from a useless Chicago GOP refusing to get out the highest possible GOP vote was significant in statewide elections.
    From 2004 to 2012 an untold story was the great job was done by Tom Swiss and Eloise Gerson (with a much smaller assisting role by me) to weed out the traitors by defeat in Ward elections, which has rejuvenated the Chicago GOP from being a virtually defunct organization at best and an actually defunct organization by 2004. But the hard core ones were completely bunkered in thanks to quiet electoral support from the Machine. This Bylaw has knocked them out.
    Some ten years ago I had the unhappy experience of defending a slate of GOP candidates from Objections filed by (actual, not purported) GOP Ward Committeemen to knock them off the ballot. It was the start of GOP lawyers actually showing up to defend local GOP candidates before the Chicago Board, which was a shock to Democrat lawyers who had never seen it before. (Now there are plenty of GOP lawyers doing it for fun and profit, but back then there were none.) Of course, the Objectors were Machine operatives. It was depressing. Being that said Objections were before the Chicago Board of Elections, they were successful as the Hearing Officer used a very weak legal argument to uphold the Objections, and the Board rubber-stamped it all. Off the ballot they went.

  6. Of the 13, seven are black and six are white. The replacements are likely to have a similar racial distribution, except that they’ll have Republican voting histories.
    Most were not freely chosen. Most were unopposed. In several wards the Democrats knocked the Republican candidate off the ballot. This happened in 23, one of Madigan’s wards, and elsewhere.
    Many of the 13 had never pulled a Republican ballot in their lives.
    One was a Democrat precinct captain. One works in an Alderman’s office, and had all his petitions circulated by the Alderman’s volunteers (who circulated her petitions for Democratic committeeman at the same time.) One is the mom of the Democratic committeeman.
    Yes, getting rid of these folks is good for the GOP. I don’t care what color they are.

  7. I remind all that no GOP statewide candidate has ever lost while receiving just 19 percent or more of the Chicago vote. That figure gets bandied about today, but it actually originated from a study done by Tom Swiss in about 2005. I have informally noted results since then and believe that it is still true. The Chicago GOP usually fights a losing battle in the Chicago vote, but it can be a crucial one in statewide and countywide elections, a fact that too often gets overlooked. Every Republican vote from whatever area counts equally in the final totals. The Chicago GOP matters.

  8. A federal statute allows a federal suit to prevent deprivation of rights granted by the U.S. Constitution. Under U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the First Amendment blocks a state from dictating to political parties how they will select their internal leadership, including qualification for party office. So the GOP argued in federal court that Section 7-8 of the Illinois Election Code (which states that the person receiving the most votes in the Ward Committeeman primary election “shall be the Ward Committeeman”) cannot overrule the internal bylaws of the Cook GOP on qualification for seating as a Ward Committeeman.
    Also, to succeed on the ground asserted in her Objection to remove the Republican Congressional candidate from the ballot the Objector (a Ward Committeeman candidate disqualified by a solid Democrat voting record) had to be an actual Ward Committeeman. Thus, the Chicago Board of Elections would necessarily have to find that the Objector was by law a Ward Committeeman. But under the Election Code the Cook GOP and Chicago GOP could not intervene into the Objection Proceeding to defend their First Amendment rights and contest the issue of disqualification before the Board. That situation in turn created a deprivation of “due process of law” under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution because the GOP parties could not be heard before the Board, but their First Amendment rights might be overrun by a ruling that the Objector was in fact a Ward Committeeman. Due process of law was the actual basis of the injunction to stop the hearing.
    I’m sorry that the explanation was complicated, but those were the legal issues. The GOP won on every one of them.

  9. This is an important victory. Stephen Boulton did a great job!
    It is worth noting that the Illinois State Republican Party already has its own bylaw provision that limits eligibility for state central committeemen to voters with a history of voting in Republican primaries.
    The Cook County Republican Central Committee bylaw which was adopted earlier this year simply applied the same type of eligibility provision to ward and township committeemen. It makes perfect sense to have such a bylaw and now a Federal Court has held the bylaw to be wholly constitutional.
    The Chicago Board of Elections’ recommendation was to remove the Republican Congressional candidate for the 7th Congressional District (who was appointed to fill a vacancy in nomination by the committeemen from the district) because one of the “fake” committeemen, who was suspected of ties to the Democrats and who was ineligible and unqualified under the bylaw, objected to the not receiving notice of the committee meeting to fill the vacancy.
    The temporary restraining order took effect minutes before the final written decision of the Chicago electoral board was to be signed. Interestingly, in making its decision, the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, sitting as the electoral board, wilfully ignored a prior Illinois Supreme Court decision on the status of ward committeemen, who are essentially party officials and not public officials.
    Given the extreme Democratic bias in the Chicago media, many readers of the Illinois Review are learning about this litigation, which has been pending since early June, for the first time. This is a perfect example of Democratic meddling with the Election Code to gain an unfair advantage. In addition to the attack upon the Congressional candidate, the bigger issue was to permit quasi-Democrats to select GOP precinct election judges in various Chicago wards.

  10. The case was filed in the United States District Court because constitutional issues were present. The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly held that there are limits upon how much regulatory interference legislatures can place upon the internal affairs and operations of political parties.
    The efforts of the Chicago Board of Elections to nullify a party bylaw crossed the line. The Federal Court in this case held that the bylaw was constitutional and to the extent that it conflicted with the Illinois Election Code the bylaw prevailed over state law.
    Judge Milton I. Shadur is a respected Senior Judge on the US District Court who was a Democratic appointee of former President Jimmy Carter.

  11. Truth, the Bylaw was applied equally by voting record, not race. Second, unqualified Black Committeemen can and will be replaced with qualified Black Commiitteemen. Third, Sean Morrison did not vote Democratic in the eight year period of the Bylaw. You heard wrong.

  12. @Truth:
    The bylaw was supported by Chris Cleveland, but it was overwhelmingly adopted by a significant majority of the Cook County Republican Central Committee (composed of committeemen from 80 city wards and 30 suburban townships). It was not a dictatorial decree, it was fully debated and approved by a substantial majority.
    Whatever complaints may be raised against Aaron Del Mar, the new bylaw did not apply to his individual case since his prior vote occurred eight years earlier and long before the bylaw was adopted. In the USA, there is a longstanding tradition of not applying rules and laws on an ex post facto basis. The bylaw applied to candidates in the 2016 election cycle.
    Keep trying to make this into a racial issue and ignore the fact that the bylaw affected candidates who were not minorities as well.
    Unhappy litigants can file an appeal, but that does not necessarily mean a reversal is an absolute certainty. Judge Shadur’s opinion is well supported by both Federal and state case precedents.

  13. The U.S. constitution does not grant us right, our right are constitutionally protected from govt.
    Same goes for the Illinois constitution… our rights come from natural law and pre-exist and pre-date any constitution.
    We would still hold our rights even if all govt was abolished in America.

  14. How about publishing the names of the Chicago 13?
    Does this ruling also apply to Election Judges? I have observed many times that Democrats are hired to be Republican Election Judges.
    I’m a real Republican Election Judge in Chicago, who lives in the suburbs of Crook County.

  15. Chris Cleveland and Stephen Boulton –
    God bless you two for fighting the good fight in a group that’s not only thankless, but hateful and antagonistic towards Republican values.
    Why should anyone ever DEMAND being appointed based on their skin color with a promise they will do the party good? Why not appoint a person to a position based on WHAT THEY’VE DONE ALREADY to help the Party? Appoint me, and I’ll show you what I can do to build the party is the OPPOSITE of I’ll show you what I can do to build the party and THEN you can appoint me to a place of authority – the way it should be.
    Only the most thick-skinned (unrelated to what color that skin is) can do the job Chris and Stephen are doing. You guys are the best! Ignore these pathetic temper tantrums being displayed among this comments. But, apparently, you’re already better than these commenters anyway … Keep up the great work! History will show that you stepped up just when it was the toughest!

  16. The complaints about disenfranchising the dozens of minorities flocking to the Republican banner on the South and West Sides of Chicago is risible.
    Ask former Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady about the importance of having actual Republican election judges in the precincts. His narrow 2010 loss to Pat Quinn was within the margin of Democratic vote fraud. Quinn piled up huge vote totals in many of the Chicago wards with fake GOP committeemen.

  17. Comments accusing anyone of racial bias is serious and can affect a person’s career and well-being. While encouraging healthy discussion and debate, Illinois Review has chosen to remove and will in the future withhold any similar accusations from our posted discussions.
    Conservatives encourage free speech and the ability to make one’s point without ad hominem attacks as part of political discussion.
    Please be courteous.

  18. The new bylaw which the old party bosses adopted right before the March primary and long AFTER candidates had filed their candidate petitions and long AFTER they were certified for the ballot, instituted a new internal rule which said you couldn’t be a committeeman if you had pulled a D ballot any time in last 8 years.
    It’s a documented fact Aaron Del Mar voted D and supported Hillary Clinton in 2008 which was 8 years ago. He’s still a committeeman.
    Meanwhile, at least some of the 13 “fired” committeemen have been hard working volunteers for Trump and Ben Carson.
    It’s a disgrace and I still don’t get it.

  19. I love free speech and welcome your blatant comments so that I know whom I’m really dealing with. As a Black American and a lifellong Republican I applaud the accomplishment of removing democrats from our leadership. It was a balsy move and my friend Stevie is the best attorney I know as he was the man for the job. It appeared to me that the folks removed were finally caught with their hand in the cookie jar and I say good riddens. We have to strengthen this party in Illinois, but without the state, county and city partys on the same page we essentiallly are working against each other. The discussion of black white or other is feckless and outdated. I am not a minority nor an African American, please just call me Sherri. Until we see each other as human beings with the same platform and similar goals for our country we too are feckless and wasting our time.

  20. Perhaps you ought to try reading the actual court opinion it would become clearer.
    The election procedures that you describe relate to the primary election system and the election authorities, but committeemen are not public officials, they are party officials. The party is permitted to adopt its own internal rules.

  21. Excellent point – the party is an organization. Why is the public required to fund a private organization’s elections? It seems much more appropriate that primaries be held as caucuses – among the members of the organization and paid for by the organization. In my Cook County District, I am paying for the Democrat Party’s primaries – there are no local Republicans on the ballot below the statewide candidates. Why should I pay for the Democrats party elections?

  22. The principal attorney for the “Republican ward committeemen” who objected to the Republican Congressional nominee for the 7th District is represented by a lawyer who has posted a group photo of himself along with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D) and State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13th) on his Twitter account.
    What else do you need to know?

  23. “Natural law” on its own and $6 will get you a latte at Starbuck’s. You need a Constitution recognizing rights as a practical matter, wherever the source. Remember that the Constitution is at root a contract of sorts between the government and the people on what the powers of the government over the people will be.

  24. A good point Susan. The Supreme Court recognizes that a state has a “compelling state interest” (meaning they can to an extend override civil rights) in conducting free and fair elections for public office to maintain ordered liberty, a body politic and legitimate government. That gives the state the right to impose primaries, (but not dictate who is allowed to vote in a party’s primary.). As I have noted to others, several portions of the current Illinois Election Code could wind up being unconstitutional if the parties don’t want to play by the Code in their internal matters.