Judge denies temporary restraining order in election hearing

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CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — A judge has denied a U of I professor’s request for a temporary restraining order, allowing the county clerk’s office to move forward printing ballots.

John Bambenek filed to be a write-in candidate for county treasurer on the March ballot, but missed the deadline per Illinois Election Code and filed a lawsuit against the clerk’s office in response, claiming the code is unconstitutional. Judge Jason Bohm presided over an emergency hearing Wednesday morning.

Bambenek was interested in running for county treasurer, after Laurel Prussing announced she would be resigning, effective January 31. Prussing’s term was supposed to last through late 2022. County board chair Giraldo Rosales declared the position vacant at a January 14 board hearing, the first step in appointing a treasurer. Rosales will have 60 days to find a replacement once Prussing’s resignation is official on February 1.

Bambenek argued the position should be on the March primary ballot, but state law requires a write-in candidate to declare intent to run no later than 61 days before the election. The county board declared the position vacant with 63 days left before the election, and Bambenek said he filed the very next day. However, current law also allows the county board to choose its nominee. According to election code, because the registration happened after December 2nd, the treasurer’s office will not appear on the primary ballot in March, although it will appear during the general election.

After the judge ruled to deny Bambenek’s request for a temporary restraining order Wednesday morning, Bambenek released the following statement in response:

“Challenging the government on the constitutionality of its own laws is always an uphill fight. As a matter of policy and principle, however, I will always side on having open elections where every voter gets a say instead of a system where unaccountable party insiders are the ones who call the shots.”

John Bambenek

WCIA spoke to Champaign County Clerk Aaron Ammons after the hearing.

“It seems like the judge was clear with the temporary restraining order, so I’ll be able to proceed with the preparation of the ballot,” Ammons said. “So, if Mr. Bambenek decides to proceed with some other unconstitutionality of the law, I believe he’ll have to take that up with the attorney general.”

Bambenek stressed at the beginning of the hearing that his lawsuit against Ammons was specifically with regards to Ammons’ official capacity as Champaign County Clerk. Ammons echoed that sentiment.

“We should be clear that this is not personal, this was not a battle between Democrats and Republicans, this was a motion that was brought forth by Mr. Bambenek in court, but there’s nothing personal,” he said.

As for whether Bambenek plans to run in the general election this November, he told WCIA he would “ask the [Republican] party for slating, but no guarantees.”

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