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In a few weeks, residents of a small town in Illinois will select a new village president. Normally, voters choose between candidates from one of two parties, but for the first time in the state’s history, they’ll get to pick between a living, breathing candidate… and a deceased one.
For nearly 40 years, John McCarty of the People’s Party served as village president for Spring Bay, a small municipality of 450 people. McCarty unexpectedly passed away on Valentine’s Day, which should have left his opponent, Dave Tilley, as the only viable candidate.
Instead, McCarty’s four daughters decided to honor their father’s memory by continuing his campaign posthumously.
Local and state laws do not address what happens when a candidate dies just prior to an election, so no rules exist requiring McCarty’s name be dropped from the ballot.
“I feel that it’s something to do for him,” Angela Angle, one of McCarty’s daughters, told the Journal Star. She added that keeping her father’s name on the ballot also ensured a “fair fight” during the election. “I like choices,” she said.
Tilley, a member of the Citizens’ Party, said he found the newest development “pretty strange,” but would maintain good sportsmanship.
“John served the village for a long time,” he said. “If that’s the way they want to honor him, that’s their choice.”
There are no precedents in either Spring Bay or Illinois state for what to do about a recently-deceased candidate. Local rules suggest if McCarty wins the election, the village board can select a president from anyone else residing in Spring Bay. If the People’s Party secures a majority on the board, board members will likely select a “like-minded replacement” from one of their own.
Tilley noted that a vote for McCarty is a “wild-card” vote, since no one knows who the board will pick in the event of Tilley’s loss.
Although no precedent for dead village presidents exists in Illinois, elections elsewhere have put bodies on the ballot. In 2018, Nevada voters elected a “dead pimp,” Dennis Hof, to a senate seat.
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