Jones v. Qualkinbush, No. 17-1227 (7th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Jones, a Calumet City alderman, wants to be mayor. His supporter, Grant, tried to prevent the incumbent, Qualkinbush, from running for reelection in 2017 by circulating a referendum to set a three-term limit on the mayor. Grant gathered enough signatures but the city proposed three referenda for that election, which were certified before Grant’s. Illinois law limits to three the number of referenda on any ballot. One of the city’s proposals passed: it prevents the election as mayor of anyone who has served four or more consecutive terms as either mayor or alderman, barring Jones. Jones was removed from the ballot. Qualkinbush was reelected. Jones lost a state suit. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of Jones’s challenges. The Rule of Three allows a city observing a signature-gathering campaign in progress to get its own proposals on the ballot first but a ballot is not a public forum. Nothing in the Constitution guarantees direct democracy. The Rule does not distinguish by content and is rationally related to a legitimate state objective in simplifying the ballot to promote a well-considered outcome. Rejecting Jones’s claim that this referendum was aimed at him and treated him as a prohibited class of one, the court noted that three aldermen were affected and the referendum prevents Qualkinbush from running for reelection in 2021. “Politics is a rough-and-tumble game,” and the right response is political.