Friday, August 7, 2009

Illinois Lawyers' Relief Act

The new Illinois "Lawyers' Relief and Retirement Act" has been published by the Illinois State Board of Elections.

When you try to get a straight answer out of the State Board of Elections or the County's Elections office to a simple question, the answer is "Look it up in our publication."

"OK, that's why I called after looking it up."

The next answer is, "Call a lawyer; we don't give legal advice."

It should be a simple matter to get clarification of an election law, not an "interpretation", for a commonly-asked question. Similar questions must come up every election cycle. Wouldn't it be a simple matter to give more examples for clarification?

There may be as many answers to election laws questions as there are lawyers. If you call five lawyers and ask the same question about election law, probably the first thing you'll hear is, "I'll have to check into that for you." Ka-ching, ka-ching. Okay, at $300/hour, how long do you want them "to check into that"? You'd better set that limit right up front, either time-wise or dollar-wise.

$50.00 worth? Forget it. No lawyer is going to put his shingle at risk without spending enough time to give you the right answer. (This is one of the reasons that I use a pre-paid legal service, recommend it, and sell it. I have unlimited telephone access to a lawyer for my legal questions.)

For example, let's say you want to sign a petition for a Republican candidate for one office and a Democratic candidate for another office.

Elections law says, "A signer MAY NOT sign petitions for a candidate of more than one political party for the same Primary Election."

Does "Primary Election" mean for a particular office? Or does it mean for the entire February 2, 2010, Primary Election (all offices)?

I can understand not allowing a person to sign petitions of persons competing for the same elected position in an election, although maybe that's not even a reasonable restriction. If you are willing to sign a second person's petition in order to give him or her a shot at the office, why not?

But let's say that you would like to sign a petition for a Republican candidate for County Clerk and a Democratic candidate for Treasurer. You are not supposed to do it.

Will people do it? Probably. Will they get caught at it? Probably not, unless every signature of every petition signer is examined, looked up or challenged.

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