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Voters in downstate district have no candidates on primary ballot

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(The Center Square) – The race for Illinois’ 102nd House District looks a little different. Both candidates, incumbent state Rep. Adam Niemerg, D-Dieterich, and his Republican opponent, Jim Acklin, are running as write-in candidates.

Niemerg said he was tossed off the ballot because the state elections board hearing officer said he didn’t raise his right hand when having his statement of candidacy notarized.

“They challenged my petitions and ultimately the hearing officer, who is a registered lobbyist, said since I didn’t have my right hand raised when I signed my statement that constituted the violation, which is absolutely ridiculous,” said Niemerg.

Illinois State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich said the objection to Niemerg’s candidacy was because his statement of candidacy was not notarized as required by the Illinois Election Code.

“This document [the statement of candidacy] doesn’t have a notary seal on it,” said Dietrich. “It was not notarized. Statements of candidacy must be notarized.”

Niemerg’s attorney said the decision to throw Niemerg off the ballot was based upon his finding that the statement of candidacy signed was not “sworn.” Niemerg said his notary came and testified at the hearing. The notary, according to Niemerg, said in the hearing that Niemerg took the oath.

Every candidate in Illinois has to notarize his or her statement of candidacy and take an oath saying they are qualified to run.

There was no notary seal on his 2024 statement of candidacy, which Niemerg said led the Vermillion County Democrats to object to his statement.

The Vermillion Democrats’ attorney told them to not speak with The Center Square regarding the objection.

In other elections, Niemerg has had a seal on his statement of candidacy.

Dietrich said if Niemerg disagreed with the hearing officer’s decision to throw him off the ballot, he should have contested the decision in court.

“He didn’t file any court challenge to our decision. He doesn’t have that recourse now. He had to do that within five days after the decision was issued. It’s not as if our board’s decision is absolute. Either side, either the objector or the candidate can go to court and seek judicial review,” said Dietrich.

Dietrich provided The Center Square with a copy of Niemerg’s statement of candidacy and it didn’t have a notary stamp. Dietrich said a candidate has to have a stamp.

According to Illinois law, statements “shall be subscribed and sworn by the candidate before some officer authorized to take acknowledgment of deeds in this State.”

Dietrich said a notary public is the “officer authorized to take acknowledgment of deeds in this State.” The proof that a document is “subscribed and sworn” is the notary public’s stamp and the signature of the notary public on the document.

The law also provides an example of a subscribed and sworn statement and says “Seal if officer has one.”

“The reason why you have a notary’s stamp on there is that the notary is providing a witness saying, ‘yes this document was signed in my presence and I saw it and that’s what my stamp means,’” said Dietrich.

Jim Acklin, currently the mayor of Ogden and interim superintendent of Chrisman Schools, recently announced his own write-in campaign in the 102nd House District, challenging Niemerg in the Republican primary. Acklin last ran a campaign for state representative in 2016, where he was defeated by state Rep. Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville.

Niemerg said the Illinois Education Association and the Illinois Federation of Teachers worked with the Vermillion County Democrat Chair Mickensy Ellis-White to object to his petitions

The Illinois Federation of Teachers has given $35,000.00 to Acklin.

To be a write-in candidate, a candidate must file statements of intent to run as a write-in with all the county clerks in the district. For the 102nd House District, it means they had to file notice in Champaign, Clark, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Effingham, Jasper, Lawrence and Vermillion counties.

The deadline to do this was Jan. 18.

Write-in votes are only counted for candidates who have followed this process.

The primary election is March 19.