A Cook County judge will go to court to reverse the ruling from Chicago’s election authority invalidating her write-in candidacy.
In a Friday interview, the attorney representing Circuit Judge Maryam Ahmad’s campaign said he will file a petition for a writ of mandamus in Cook County Circuit Court on Tuesday.
If upheld by the court, the petition will force the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners to treat Ahmad as a valid write-in candidate and tabulate the write-in votes for her as part of the results in the Nov. 8 general election.
At the heart of the dispute is a state law that bars candidates who lost in the primary from running again in the general election — called the “sore loser” provision.
“They’re looking at it as one bite at the apple,” said Burton S. Odelson of Odelson & Sterk Ltd. in Evergreen Park. “I am considering it as one bite in two different apples.”
Under Sections 17-16.1 and 18-9.1 of the Illinois Election Code, a candidate who loses his or her primary challenge is barred from being a write-in candidate “for election in that general or consolidated election.”
According to the Chicago election board, this means a candidate like Ahmad has only one shot at running for office in an election cycle. If she loses her primary bid, she cannot try and run for a different office on the same ballot.
But Ahmad and Odelson believe that a defeated primary contender can mount a write-in candidacy for a separate office from the one they already lost.
Ahmad lost her primary campaign for the 1st Judicial Subcircuit’s Brim vacancy in March. She is now trying to challenge Rhonda Crawford, who is running unopposed in the same subcircuit for the Hopkins vacancy, which is technically a different office on the ballot.
The candidates who are elected to those vacancies will have the same title and duties and are chosen by the same set of voters on the city’s South Side and parts of south suburban Thornton Township.
Odelson dismissed the notion that different judicial vacancies amount to the same position for purposes of write-in eligibility.
“That’s the easy part of the case, to be honest. I don’t even know if the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners will even argue that,” said Odelson, who added that Illinois lawmakers have previously made clear that judicial vacancies are considered separate offices.
Odelson said he will argue the Brim and Hopkins vacancies are separate offices, and Ahmad has not run for the Hopkins vacancy.
Odelson added both the U.S. and state supreme courts have interpreted election laws in favor of allowing people to run for office.
“By not allowing her to run, it deprives people of a choice at the polls,” he said.
Odelson has a long and storied career in election law. He was one of the lawyers who represented then-Republican presidential nominee and Texas Gov. George W. Bush as part of the Florida recount legal battle that would culminate with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore, which handed Bush the White House over his Democratic opponent, then-Vice President Al Gore.
Odelson also represented Walter P. Maksym Jr. and Thomas L. McMahon, who challenged Rahm Emanuel’s residency and eligibility to run for mayor of Chicago in 2011.
At this point, Ahmad only plans to sue the Chicago election authority. She is considered a valid write-in candidate for 1st Subcircuit voters in the south suburbs whose ballots are counted by the Cook County Clerk’s Office.
A spokesman with the clerk’s office said it has not decided yet whether to reject Ahmad’s write-in candidacy.
Though it crosses from city to suburb, vote totals in the March primary indicate that the city’s share of votes dominates the suburbs’.
Nearly 80 percent of all the voters who weighed in on the March primary race between Ahmad and Jesse Outlaw — an associate with The Stuttley Group LLC who won the contest — were from the city.
Crawford was fired last month from her position as a law clerk at the Cook County Circuit Court after she allegedly donned a judge’s robe and adjudicated at least two cases.
Crawford does not face a Republican candidate in the Nov. 8 general election. She captured 46 percent of the vote in the March 15 Democratic primary against two others for the Hopkins vacancy.