Homer Township Republican committeeperson race to be decided by lot following judge’s order

A Will County judge ruled in favor of Homer Township Supervisor Steve Balich’s request to get a ballot for his opponent tossed out, which results in a tie for the position of Republican precinct committeeperson that will be decided by lot.

Judge John Anderson wrote in his opinion that one ballot cast for Homer Glen resident Tami O’Brien was not initialed by an election judge and could not be counted. A handful of ballots that were initialed in the wrong spot were not considered in this case and were counted.

O’Brien was declared the winner of the March 19 race for Precinct 6 committeeperson in Homer Township by one vote, but Balich, who is also the Will County Board Republican Leader, filed for a recount.

Anderson wrote he was sympathetic to O’Brien’s position that not counting the ballot would disenfranchise the voter who cast it.

“Rather than this case being called a recount, the process may as well be called a discount because it entails efforts to make a vote not count — even when the vote was otherwise properly cast by a voter who most assuredly had no idea their voice would be ignored,” Anderson wrote.

But the judge wrote the law is clear that all ballots need to be endorsed or initialed by an election judge and that the Illinois Supreme Court has considered this a requirement for 125 years.

“No matter how sympathetic the Court may be to Ms. O’Brien’s position, it is not for a trial court judge to ignore plain statutory language nor directives from the Illinois Supreme Court,” Anderson wrote.

Tami O’Brien, of Homer Glen, defeats Homer Township Supervisor Steve Balich for Precinct 6 Committeeperson by one vote. (Tami O’Brien)

O’Brien beat Balich in the March 19 election by 115 votes to 114. With the one vote tossed out, the result ends in a tie and a winner will be determined at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the clerk’s office.

The clerk’s office has determined that numbered balls representing the candidates will be drawn from a container to break the tie.

“I had that vote,” O’Brien said. “This is just a shame, a real shame.”

Anderson also rejected the argument that because O’Brien already took an oath of office as precinct committeeperson, the case should be dismissed. Anderson wrote if that were the issue, recounts and election litigation would have to move at a speed they cannot reasonably attain.

Anderson acknowledged in his opinion that there is a disagreement among the candidates if Balich wins the lottery.

O’Brien’s attorney, Pericles Abbasi, said there is still an outstanding question of whether a judge in an election contest case has jurisdiction to remove someone who has already taken office.

Homer Glen Mayor Christina Neitzke-Troike, who backed O’Brien in the race, said she was frustrated with the process.

“Tami won fair and square. Steve lost,” Neitzke-Troike said. “As Republicans we preach every vote counts and every vote matters. He’s throwing out another Republican’s vote. He’s finding a technicality to weasel his way back into the position.”

Balich, who was the leader of the Homer Township Republican Organization, said the vote was a tie, and no candidate received an overwhelming endorsement in the race. He said he is fighting for the residents who backed him for the position. He said some residents told him they had trouble voting March 19 because the polling place’s doors were locked, which delayed the polls opening.

Balich said he wants to retain the position because of the upcoming elections for president and local offices. He said he is starting his own movement based on Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again mantra to back conservative candidates. He said he would walk away if he doesn’t win the drawing.

“If (O’Brien) wins, I hope she does a good job, and if she wants my help, I’ll help her,” he said.

O’Brien said she is empowered to continue running for elected positions, noting all elected township positions are up in 2025.

“I’m not going away,” she said. “I’m a strong woman. I’m not going to crawl in a hole.”

She said whatever the result of the drawing, she plans to try to help Republican candidates get elected.

While contested races for precinct committeeperson were rare in the March 19 primary in Will County, they took a contentious tone in Homer Township.

O’Brien and a group of candidates ran together as part of a slate known as Neighbors United for Homer Township against the established Homer Township Republican Organization that Balich led.

Neighbors United said they believed change was needed and wanted “to return civility and harmony to our community.”

Members of the Homer Township Republican Organization accused the Neighbors United group as “fake candidates pretending to be Republicans.”

Neitzke-Troike said the local Republicans are tired of the infighting.

“We’ve been trying to get rid of the divide for so long, and Steve is the divide,” Neitzke-Troike said. “If you don’t think like Steve and drink his Kool-Aid, then you are not good enough.”

Balich said he has been unable to work with the mayor on local issues, noting her desire to dissolve township government.

“You don’t have to like people, but you have to work with them and trust them and that’s what’s lacking right now,” Balich said. “If she thinks I’m the problem, that’s OK. She can think whatever she wants. I don’t pay attention.”

Michelle Mullins is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.

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