People v. Gordon

Decision Date24 October 1916
Docket NumberNo. 9621.,9621.
Citation113 N.E. 864,274 Ill. 462
CourtIllinois Supreme Court

Error to Criminal Court, Cook County; Richard E. Burke, Judge.

Joseph Gordon was convicted of fraudulently changing and altering an official ballot during the canvass of ballots in a precinct of a ward of the city of Chicago, at a general election held November 5, 1912. His motions for new trial and arrest of judgment were overruled, and he sues out a writ of error. Affirmed.

Dunn, Cartwright, and Duncan, JJ., dissenting.

Louis Greenberg, of Chicago, for plaintiff in error.

P. J. Lucey, Atty. Gen., Arthur R. Roy, Asst. Atty. Gen., and John E. Northup, of Chicago, for the People.


The plaintiff in error was indicted, tried, and convicted in the criminal court of Cook county for fraudulently changing and altering an official ballot during the canvass of ballots in the sixteenth precinct of the eighteenth ward of the city of Chicago, at the general election held November 5, 1912. Motions for new trial and in arrest of judgment were overruled, and judgment was entered on the verdict. This writ of error is sued out to review that judgment.

No bill of exceptions is found in the record, and the only error urged as ground for reversal is that the section of the statute under which the court sentenced plaintiff in error to the penitentiary is void, as in contravention of the state Constitution and of the Fourteenth Amendment to the federal Constitution. Counsel differ as to the section of the City Election Law under which plaintiff in error was indicted; his counsel insisting that it was under section 12 of article 6, while counsel for the state insist that it was under section 6 of that article. In our judgment the indictmentis based on said section 6, but it is immaterial whether it was under section 6 or section 12, for, if one section is held constitutional, we see no reason why the other, for like reasons, should not also be so held.

The City Election Law provides that it shall be in force in cities, villages, and incorporated towns only by vote of the electors in the manner provided by the act. It was adopted by the voters of the city of Chicago in 1885, and has been in force in that city since that year. Section 6 of article 6 of said City Election Law provides that if any judge of election or other officer or person shall fraudulently, during the canvassing of the ballots, change or alter any ballot, he shall be punished by imprisonment in the penitentiary for not less than one nor more than five years. Hurd's Stat. 1916, p. 1171. The only provision of the General Election Law as to punishment for alteration of a ballot is section 82, which declares that whoever changes a ballot, with intent to deprive an elector of voting for such person as he intended, shall be fined not exceeding $1,000, or be imprisoned in the county jail not exceeding one year, or both. Hurd's Stat. 1916, p. 1119. It is therefore earnestly insisted that the City Election Law is special legislation, arbitrary and unreasonable, and therefore unconstitutional, under both the state and federal Constitutions.

The City Election Law was held constitutional in People v. Hoffman, 116 Ill. 587, 5 N. E. 596,8 N. E. 788,56 Am. Rep. 793. A reading of the majority and dissenting opinions in that case demonstrates clearly that practically every question now urged against the constitutionality of the law as to its being special legislation, arbitrary and unreasonable, in its provisions, was raised and considered by the court in that case. The briefs in that case urged its unconstitutionality on the very ground urged here-that is, that it provided punishments for the same or similar acts different from those provided by the General Election Law. The opinion of the court in that case held that the act was valid, and not in contravention of any constitutionalprovision, and that it was not a local or special law, within the meaning of the Constitution, saying (116 Ill. 597, 5 N. E. 599,56 Am. Rep. 793):

‘Whether laws are general or not does not depend upon the number of those within the scope of their operation. They are general, ‘not because they operate upon every person in the state, for they do not, but because every person, who is brought within the relations and circumstances provided for, is affected by the laws.’ Nor is it necessary, in order to make a statute general, that ‘it should be equally applicable to all parts of the state. It is sufficient if it extends to all persons doing or omitting to do an act within the territorial limits described in the statute.’ People v. Wright, 70 Ill. 388;People v. Cooper, 83 Ill. 585. This Election Law is not local or special because of the limited number of cities, towns, and villages which may have adopted it. It may rather be said of it that it is general, because of the possibility that all the cities, towns, and villages in the state may accept its provisions, if they choose.'

That the court then had in mind these very differences in punishment between the City Election Law and the General Election Law for the same acts is obvious, not only from what we have just quoted, which necessarily bears on the question here involved, but from the entire discussion in the opinion of the court. The conclusion that the opinion intended to pass directly on the questions we are considering is rendered absolutely certain, if not so before, by considering the court's opinion in connection with the opinion of the minority, for the dissenting opinion time and again called attention to the principles involved in the arguments here urged upon us, and particularly referred to the very sections of the statute now under consideration as a reason for holding the act to be special legislation. The dissenting opinion, after enumerating numerous differences between the City Election Law and the General Election Law, calling attention, among other things, to the fact that the polls under these two laws open and close at different hours, that the registration provisions differ in practically every respect, and that the methods of appointing the judges and clerks are in no wise similar, continued (116 Ill. 619, 8 N. E. 789,56 Am. Rep. 793):

‘Under the general law, the offenses of illegal voting, bribery, etc., are punishable by fine or imprisonment in the county jail; by this act, these offenses are punishable by confinement in the penitentiary. Under the general law, the violation by judges of election of certain prescribed duties is punishable by fine or imprisonment in the county jail; by this act, the same offenses are punishable by confinement in the penitentiary. There are still other matters of dissimilarity between the provisions of the general law and those of this act, equally as marked; but these are sufficient to show that this act is in no sense supplementary to the general law, and that it and the general law are not applicable to different conditions and states of fact, but that they contain radically different systems of law upon the same subject-matter.’

Again, on page 620 of 116 Ill., on page 789 of 8 N. E. (56 Am. Rep. 793), the dissenting opinion says:

‘I cannot believe that a law arbitrarily classifying the subject-matter of a law, and applying and enforcing different rules in conformity with such arbitrary classification, is general, or that it can be correctly denominated otherwise than ‘local or special.’ To justify classification the difference must be in the thing itself which forms the subject of legislation, and it must be substantial, and not simply fanciful.'

On page 621 of 116 Ill., on page 790 of 8 N. E. (56 Am. Rep. 793), we also find this in the dissent:

‘It is impossible to state a valid reason why illegal voting and malfeasance in office by judges of election are worse offenses in the city of Chicago or the town of Lake than they are in the village of Hyde Park, or, for that matter, in Peoria, Quincy, Bloomington, or Springfield, or in the rural voting districts.’

Again, on page 627 of 116 Ill., on page 793 of 8 N. E. (56 Am. Rep. 793):

‘What can there possibly be, in the circumstances affecting it, to justify the distinction that, if a illegal vote be cast or an election officer be guilty of malfeasance in office in one voting precinct in Cook county, the person so guilty shall be punished by confinement in the penitentiary, and yet, if an illegal vote be cast or an election officer be guilty of the same malfeasance in office, under precisely the same conditions and circumstances and in precisely the same way, at an election on the same day for the same officers in another precinct in Cook county, he shall be punished only by fine, or by fine and imprisonment in the county jail?’

It is unnecessary to quote at greater length from the dissenting opinion in order to emphasize the fact that practically its entire basis was the very sections of the law which are here urged as unconstitutional. If the reasons urged here and urged in the dissenting opinion in the Hoffman Case were upheld, it would unllify the force and effect of the entire Election Law. The fundamental principle of this act centers about the registration requirements. Under this act the requirements are mandatory that the voter must register before the day of election in order to be qualified to vote; under the general act no such requirement is made. Under the general act, while there are provisions for registration, a voter can vote, even though he is not registered before the day of election. This act provides in detail for preliminary registration and for a canvass of the district and the method of sending suspect notices prior to the day of election, in order that only those who are legally entitled to vote shall remain on the registration books. Some two score or more different acts that interfere with the proper registration of voters are made punishable by the City Election Act, which are not specifically...

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17 cases
  • People v. Potts
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • September 25, 1974 prohibited, a reasonable classification based upon some natural principle of public policy will be sustained. People v. Gordon, 274 Ill. 462, 113 N.E. 864 (1916). An equally familiar point of decision is that it is strictly within the province of the legislature to declare what conduct s......
  • West v. Town of Lake Placid
    • United States
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    ... ... subject-matter of the regulation. The matter of ... classification is a practical one, dependent upon experience ... People of State of New York ex rel. Bryant v ... Zimmerman, 49 S.Ct. 61, 73 L.Ed. 184; International ... Harvester Co. v. Missouri, 234 U.S. 199, 34 ... 18, ... [120 So. 367] ... 32 L. R. A. 586; Williams v. Eggleston, 170 U.S ... 304, 18 S.Ct. 617, 42 L.Ed. 1047; People v. Gordon, ... 274 Ill. 462, 113 N.E. 864; Hope v. New Orleans, 106 ... La. 345, 30, So. 842; Chandler v. Neff (D. C.) 298 ... F. 515; Atty. Gen. v ... ...
  • People ex rel. Rusch v. Ladwig
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    • Illinois Supreme Court
    • April 7, 1937
    ...this court in People ex rel. Rusch v. Enger, 364 Ill. 464, 4 N.E.(2d) 870;People v. White, 334 Ill. 465, 166 N.E. 100;People v. Gordon, 274 Ill. 462, 113 N.E. 864, 866;Sherman v. People, 210 Ill. 552, 71 N.E. 618, and People v. Hoffman, supra, we will again say that section 13 of article 2 ......
  • People ex rel. Rusch v. White
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    • Illinois Supreme Court
    • April 20, 1929
    ...that it deprived the respondents of their liberty without due process of law. This contention was not sustained. In People v. Gordon, 274 Ill. 462, 113 N. E. 864, Gordon was convicted in the criminal court of Cook county of fraudulently altering and changing an official ballot during the ca......
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