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First court hearing on ballot initiatives lawsuit

Published: Monday, May 5, 2014 11:59 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, May 6, 2014 12:00 a.m. CDT

CHICAGO – Attorneys involved in a lawsuit aiming to block term limit and political redistricting initiatives from the ballot made an initial court appearance Monday, the first step in a case that could affect voter turnout in November.

The brief hearing essentially set a loose timeline for the weeks ahead, with both sides and the judge urging a quick result ahead of the election. Another hearing was set for Wednesday.

It was a gathering of some of Cook County’s most prominent attorneys, adding to the spotlight on initiatives that are popular with voters and have become campaign issues for Illinois’ hotly contested gubernatorial race. Republican businessman Bruce Rauner, who’s leading the term limits ballot initiative, is challenging Gov. Pat Quinn, a Chicago Democrat who’s championed term limits in the past.

The lawsuit, which argues that state election officials shouldn’t spend public money on the proposals, was filed by election attorney Michael Kasper. He’s represented many top Democrats over the years including House Speaker Michael Madigan. Lawyer Lori Lightfoot, once a finalist to head the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago, represented those fighting the lawsuit claiming that yet more money will be spent to adjudicate the case.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Mary Mikva, daughter of former federal judge and former congressman Abner Mikva, disclosed in court that she was connected to people on both sides of the case if attorneys wanted to raise objections, though it appeared neither side did. She said Kasper represented her during her election, which he confirmed in court.

Kasper declined to comment to reporters after the hearing.

Representatives for both ballot initiatives questioned the timing of the lawsuit, which was filed last week as both groups delivered hundreds of thousands of signatures to the State Board of Elections.

“That smells of politics to me, but it’ll really be up to the court to decide,” Michael Kolenc, campaign manager of Yes! for Independent Maps, told reporters after the hearing.

His group wants an independent commission to determine Illinois’ political boundaries. Rauner’s group wants to limit state lawmakers’ time in office.

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Follow Sophia Tareen at http://twitter.com/sophiatareen .

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