Maryam Ahmad
Maryam Ahmad

Write-in votes for Cook County Circuit Judge Maryam Ahmad will be counted in the Nov. 8 election, following a judge’s ruling today that her candidacy does not violate state law.

Cook County Associate Judge Alfred J. Paul’s order binds both the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners and the county clerk’s office, meaning voters in the 1st Judicial Subcircuit will be able to vote for Ahmad regardless of their municipality.

Minutes after Paul handed down his order, Ahmad expressed great satisfaction with the court’s order.

“You want people who are skilled and qualified in the law to be making these sometimes life-and-death decisions. I know I am such a person,” Ahmad said.

At this point, Ahmad’s road to challenging Rhonda Crawford, a former law clerk who was fired from the circuit court for allegedly masquerading as a judge, for the Hopkins vacancy on the subcircuit is clear of legal hurdles.

The Chicago board will not appeal Paul’s ruling, a spokesman with the election authority said. The board earlier this month rejected Ahmad’s write-in candidacy, which prompted the judge to sue the authority in Cook County court.

“The court had a different interpretation of the law than ours,” said board spokesman James P. Allen.

During today’s hearing, however, Crawford sought to intervene in Ahmad’s lawsuit. Paul rejected her attempted intervention because it was untimely and her interests were already represented by the board, said Burton S. Odelson, Ahmad’s attorney.

Odelson held open the possibility that Crawford could appeal Paul’s denial of her intervention, but he said he does not see how she could block Ahmad’s write-in candidacy.

Crawford’s attorney, Andrew Finko, deferred comments to his client and did not return additional requests for comment. Crawford also did not return a request for comment.

At the heart of the lawsuit is a state law that bars candidates who lost in the primary from running again in the general election — called the “sore loser” provision.

Under Sections 17-61.1 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.”

The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners maintained this law prevented Ahmad, who lost her primary campaign for the 1st Judicial Subcircuit’s Brim vacancy, cannot run a write-in campaign for the Hopkins vacancy in the same subcircuit.

But Ahmad argued the law permits her write-in candidacy because she is running for a different office. Paul agreed with Ahmad’s reasoning.

“While this statutory language is sometimes referred to as a ‘sore loser’ provision, such a description is not applicable to the Hopkins vacancy in this matter because the plaintiff filed nomination papers for a separate vacancy at the primary election, the Brim vacancy,” Paul wrote in his four-page order.

By expanding Ahmad’s disqualification for the Brim vacancy to the Hopkins vacancy, the Chicago election authority sought “a very expansive reading” of this law, Paul added.

Odelson described the case as being one of first impression, saying it will give guidance to election authorities in future cases.

When asked about her campaign strategy, Ahmad said she plans to remain visible in the 1st Judicial Subcircuit community — the city’s South Side and parts of south suburban Thornton Township.

Ahmad did not say whether she would work with certain bar associations or Democratic committeemen to get her name out to voters. Ahmad ran as a Democrat in the March primary.

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.

The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners and the individual members were represented by James M. Scanlon, the board’s legal counsel.

The case is Ahmad v. Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, et al., 16 COEL 19.