On February 26, 2013, the City held elections for several city offices, including the Second Ward Alderman seat. Western Illinois University student Steven Wailand was a candidate in that race and faced Kay Hill, the incumbent alderman who was appointed by Macomb's mayor.
Despite getting 17 of the 33 votes cast in that election -- which is 51.52 percent of the vote -- the City refused to recognize Mr. Wailand as the winner and instead scheduled a runoff election between the same two candidates. This was decided despite the fact that Macomb's governing City code states that the candidate who receives a "majority" of votes wins. The City claims that its definition of "majority" requires a candidate to win "50 percent plus-one vote" -- not more than half.
This case turned on the City's arbitrary definition of a single word -- "majority" -- as used in the City's Municipal Code. But the implications of the City's actions "reached the heart of Steven Wailand's and all Macomb citizens' constitutional right to vote and have their votes counted, rights that are protected by the Illinois Constitution," said Diane Cohen, general counsel of the Liberty Justice Center of the Illinois Policy Institute and lead attorney on the case.
The Court therefore ordered the Macomb City Clerk to notify Steven that he was elected to the office of Second Ward Alderman and to administer the oath of office to Steven Wailand at the Macomb City Council meeting in May.
LJC is a nonpartisan, nonprofit litigation center dedicated to advancing liberty, limiting government and protecting freedoms guaranteed under the Illinois and U.S. Constitutions. Through the support of liberty-loving Illinoisans around the state, LJC was able to offer pro bono legal representation to Steven. This case stands as a reminder that we must remain eternally vigilant in the protection of liberty from government's arbitrary enforcement of the law. The Illinois Supreme Court has recognized that voting is "the expression of the people of their will" and is "fundamental to a viable form of government." This ruling reaffirms the citizens of Macomb and all Illinoisans' constitutionally protected right to vote and have their votes counted.