Bloomington mayoral hopeful falls 14 signatures short of ballot qualification, will challenge count

Even though a crucial deadline has now passed, it’s still not certain if another candidate will appear on the Nov. 7 ballot for Bloomington mayor, besides the Democratic Party’s nominee, Kerry Thomson.

At a minute before noon on Friday (June 30), Joe Davis arrived at Monroe County’s election offices at 7th and Madison streets with another batch of petition signatures.

Davis was petitioning to qualify for the Nov. 7 ballot as an independent candidate for Bloomington mayor.

He had already handed in several signatures over the last couple months—including a few batches earlier Friday morning. Up to that point, his running total of verified signatures stood at 332. That left him 20 short of the 352 he needed.

It’s not a nice round figure, because the minimum number of signatures is defined as 2 percent of the total votes cast in the city of Bloomington in the most recent statewide race for secretary of state.

On Friday at 11:59 a.m., which was a minute before the deadline, Davis handed only a dozen more signatures across the counter.

He and the election clerks alike already knew it would not be enough to put him on the ballot—even if all 12 checked out as active registered voters in the city of Bloomington.

About 10 minutes later, the clerks had disqualified half of the last 12 signatures that Davis had submitted—making his final total 338, or 14 short of the required number.

But Davis later told The B Square that he will be filing a challenge, based on what he said were around 200 signatures that have been disqualified for one reason or another.

The deadline for the Republican Party to caucus a candidate onto the Ballot is July 3, but that looks unlikely.

Signatures on qualifying petitions get disqualified for various reasons. Some people sign a petition, even though they’re not registered to vote at all. Others will sign, but are registered at an address some place other than inside Bloomington city limits.

The category of disqualification that Davis will likely target are signatures of “pending voters”—people whose registration was still pending and not yet active. Indiana’s voter registration guide says that a voter has to wait seven days after a postcard is mailed to the address where they registered, before they become an active voter.

Davis told The B Square that he will be filing a CAN-1 form,  which can be used by a
“a candidate seeking to contest the denial of certification due to insufficient signatures.”

The form will be filed with the Monroe County election board. The board has a regular meeting set for Thursday, July 6. But it is unlikely that the board would hear and settle the issue at that meeting—especially if Davis has not filed the challenge by then.

Another relevant deadline on the election calendar is July 17, which is  the last day an independent candidate like Davis can file his declaration of candidacy. (The deadlines for submitting signatures and filing the declaration of candidacy are different.)

During the primary election season, Davis was invited to one candidate forum, where he participated alongside the Democratic Party primary candidates.

Davis appeared uninvited to another candidate forum, but was eventually allowed by the organizers to participate.

In a separate matter, on Friday Davis won a preliminary injunction in the Monroe County circuit court, which prevents the city of Bloomington, from enforcing an order for abatement against Davis’s Washington Street house. Davis filed a lawsuit to prevent the city from removing various items that he has place around the outside of his property, which the city considers to be refuse, and in violation of city code.

In March, Bloomington’s board of public works approved the abatement order. Shortly after that, Davis filed his lawsuit against the city. He is representing himself.

In the order that granted the preliminary injunction, circuit court judge Kara Krothe wrote:

[Davis’s] threatened injury, the loss of property that has not been inventoried, outweighs the potential harm to the [Davis] which is [the city] having to field calls from neighbors who don’t like the way [Davis’s] property looks. Fielding complaints from neighbors is a municipal function, and although, possibly annoying, the Court does not agree that it could be characterized as harmful.

The city’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit is set for hearing on Aug. 3.

6 thoughts on “Bloomington mayoral hopeful falls 14 signatures short of ballot qualification, will challenge count

  1. If he can’t get 352 signatures, he really can’t expect to win

    1. i agree but also, no other candidate got 352 signatures… it’s an extraordinary burden.

      1. But other primary candidates had an even greater burden….raising money, going door to door, holding house parties, placing yard signs.

  2. Wow what a set of filings. I have to first disclose, obviously: I am not a lawyer.

    I’m not going to critique Davis’s complaint (the filing that initiated the lawsuit), just summarize it: he asserts that Housing And Neighborhood Development (HAND) and the Board of Public Works (BPW) together miscategorized his posessions as garbage, when the posessions in dispute are actually construction materials. Based on that mischaracterization, the city intends to haul off an undisclosed subset of his posessions that are not enclosed within walls, which Davis fears will be every single one.

    The city, specifically attorney Christopher Wheeler, filed a 12b6 motion to dismiss, which should succeed if, assuming all of the facts fall in the most favorable light to Davis, Davis’s complaint still doesn’t contain a claim actionable under law. But paragraph 10 of the motion to dismiss does argue facts, alleges that the city does distinguish between trash and buliding materials. Whether that is true is a question of fact, not of law, and cannot be part of a 12b6 motion.

    Paragraph 13 of the motion to dismiss asserts that the courts can only oversee an administrative decision if that decision is “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, not in accordance with the law, or unsupported by substantial evidence.” Wheeler asserts that Davis hasn’t alleged any of those things. I guess he’s asserting that Davis has to use the word “arbitrary and unsupported by substantial evidence” when clearly describing conduct that is arbitrary and unsupported by substantial evidence.

    The motion to dismiss also confronts Davis’s reference to IC 36-7-8-3(d). That’s a whole kettle of fish, but basically it says county building departments can’t enforce building code against someone who is building their own residence. I think 36-7-8-3 doesn’t apply here because Davis’s dispute isn’t with the building department but rather with HAND. But that’s not what Wheeler thinks, he thinks that 36-7-8-3 doesn’t apply to incorporated areas of the county (i.e., cities). The thing is, if I wanted to know the answer to that question (and I did!), I would look up what gives the city the authority to regulate building codes (and I did!), and near as I can tell it is 36-7-8-4 which says that cities can voluntarily ask the county to enforce building codes. Wheeler didn’t do this and thus produced garbage output.

    I bring up this motion to dismiss because I have never heard of Wheeler before but he is embodying the tendency for the city’s legal deprtment to do absolutely garbage work. I am directly calling into question his competence, and his good faith participation in the legal process. The 12b6 motion is garbage, and an abuse of the court’s time, and I believe it prejudiced the court against his client (the city). The city has many good arguments to make and the legal department chose garbage instead. Which is a habit thoroughly adopted throughout the whole department, again and again on a multitude of issues. City Legal sucks.

    But I think what really moved the court is that HAND decided to present evidence, which was a video of an inspection where the inspector just vaguely gestures at the whole yard and declares every single thing in it is obviously garbage. That’s from the court’s summary of the video, not my own viewing of it. If I’m reading correctly, the court was extremely unimpressed with this process, as it obviously embodied arbitrary, capricous, and unsupported by substantial evidence. The court noted that the HAND inspector was condemned the use of leaves as a mulching material. Leaves are God’s mulch and this behavior is so clearly arbitrary and capricious and just plain wrong that it left the court with no option but to show a little sympathy for Davis’s position.

    And all together, I’m glad to see HAND’s behavior put on trial in this fashion. I have been on the receiving end of this and I am absolutely convinced that Davis is right about one thing: HAND works on aesthetic complaints as part of a vague self-selected mission of neighborhood beautification and property value protection. HAND absolutely does not apply any discernible legal standard. HAND’s behavior will almost never survive scrutiny by courts, and they rely entirely on the rubber stamp of BPW to get anything done.

    For example, HAND has decided to declare war on bamboo because it is on a list of plants forbidden by the zoning ordinance. But that same list includes dozens of plants that are present on every lot in the city, including city-owned, Parks-owned, and MCCSC-owned lots. How did they decide to enforce bamboo against some neighbors and nothing against everyone else? Arbitrary caprice. And in the record for this case, they apparently threatened to remove Davis’s Ailanthus (tree of heaven)…hey, I’m no fan of tree of heaven, but why single out Davis? If HAND really intends to enforce against Ailanthus, they face an uphill battle of literally thousands of lots infested with it. But they can avoid that battle with only one tactic: arbitrary caprice.

    If you know me, you know the real reason I hate HAND: the sidewalks, duh. HAND hired a new inspector who didn’t know any better, and when he saw a rental property manager had allowed poison ivy to grow all the way across a public sidewalk, he skipped the courtesy warning and went straight to a $50 fine. When the property manager appealed, BPW — ON THE ADVICE OF THE DIRECTOR OF HAND — reversed the ticket. The garbage in Davis’s yard doesn’t smell half as bad as the garbage in city hall.

    1. How bad does the garbage in city hall smell? Is anyone still there?

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